Honoring a hero
by Ron Harris
Aug 25, 2013 | 2818 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Kyle Eaton, at left, of Jasper joins lifelong friend Thad Forester in a walk Saturday to honor Thad’s brother, Mark, who died in 2010 while serving with the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan. Daily Mountain Eagle - Ron Harris
Dr. Kyle Eaton, at left, of Jasper joins lifelong friend Thad Forester in a walk Saturday to honor Thad’s brother, Mark, who died in 2010 while serving with the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan. Daily Mountain Eagle - Ron Harris
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More than 70 people took part in a special workout Saturday morning to honor Mark Forester, a combat controller in the U.S. Air Force who was killed in action on Sept. 29, 2010, in Afghanistan.

CrossFit Jasper hosted the special event, which included several members of Mark Forester’s family.

Thad Forester, Mark’s brother, spoke to those in attendance about his brother, and the love Mark had for his country and his desire to serve. Mark Forester was just 29 when he died.

Dr. Kyle Eaton of Jasper, a lifelong friend to Thad Forester and the Forester family, helped coordinate the event, which included a special workout called ‘Jag 28.’ The workout involves an 800-meter run, 28 kettle bell swings, 28 strict pullups, 28 kettle bell clean and jerk lifts, 28 more strict pullups and another 800-meter run.

‘Jag 28’ was Mark Forester’s call sign as a combat controller.

Saturday’s event also included a walk down U.S. 78 to honor Mark Forester’s memory.

The workout was also used to help raise funds for the Mark Forester Foundation, which provides college scholarships each year and has made donations to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Soldier’s Angels, The Welcome Home Heroes Traveling Tribute, Wounded Warrior Project and The University of Alabama Campus Veteran's Association.

In all, Saturday’s event raised more than $1,400.

“We’re always humbled to see people show such respect to Mark and to our military,” Thad Forester said following the event. “For people to come out and put themselves through pain — actually, intense pain — is special. I underestimated this. I thought I could do this easier than I did. For people to put themselves through the pain and to donate money to Mark’s foundation is great. We’re completely honored and humbled that so many people — most who didn’t even know Mark — would come out for this.”

“This is great that they’re honoring Mark, but it’s also honoring all military service people,” said Ray Forester, Mark and Thad’s father. “We have so many military personnel who make sacrifices for all of us. We need to honor all the people who serve to protect the freedoms that we have.”

The National Geographic channel’s series ‘Eyewitness War’ recently featured a special segment on Mark Forester and his work as a combat controller. The episode featuring Forester, which was titled ‘Fallen Hero,’ is scheduled to air again at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“Thad and I have been friends since we were little,” Eaton said following Saturday’s event. “The Forester family is very special to me and my family, and when I heard about Mark’s death it really touched me. When I saw that Thad was doing these walks to honor his brother, I knew that we had to do something here in Jasper for them to raise money for this great foundation and have a good time doing it.”

Mark’s parents, who live in Haleyville and are devout Mormons, said Mark served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 2000 to 2002 prior to joining the U.S. Air Force.

Their faith, along with Mark’s faith, is what helps when it comes to understanding and coping with his death.

“Mark was ready for whatever happened,” Ray Forester said. “Mark told one of our friends before he went to Afghanistan that whether he came home or not, he would be OK.”

“Mark was just as committed to his faith as he was to his military service,” said Pat Forester, Mark’s mother. “He never wavered in that. He didn’t compromise himself in anything he did. Mark said it was a calling as much as anything for him to join the military and serve.”

“To see so many people here who we don’t know, who didn’t know Mark, it’s great,” Ray Forester added. “It’s been a good day. I appreciate them honoring Mark, but also honoring all service members.”