Soldiers in Iraq took part in Hibiscus 5K Run

VERO BEACH — The Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company 5K Hibiscus Festival Run, which launched a full day of family fun for the community on April 17, registered 136 runners and walkers in Vero Beach.

Eighteen soldiers from the US Army’s Blowtorch Company, currently serving in Iraq, and in an active combat zone, participated in the 5K Run from nearly 7,000 miles away.  The group completed the race as a platoon, finishing with a time of 22:36.  Their participation was coordinated by the Freedom Torch Program, a not for profit organization that arranges for soldiers serving overseas to participate in races here in the States.  

Freedom Torch Participants included SSG Jessie Bryand, CPL Nathan Hulbert, PV2 Joshua Abellar, PFC Marty Robbins, PFC Sergio Cortez, SPC Thomas Arnone, SGT Paul Adamson, SGTKelsey Hoopongarner, SPC Matthew Johnson, PFC Jason Douglas, SPC Christian Duran, SGT Ryan Lawson, SPC Christopher Kimm, SGT James Maarsingh, 1SG Mark Ohme, SPC David Cupp and SPC Michael Rowland.

And, at the Hibiscus Festival here in Vero Beach, Mark Swart won the race with a time of 17:58, with Barrett Wall close behind for second place with a time of 18:12.  The women’s race was won by Meredith Van Veen with a time of 20:32 with Debra Daley on her heels for second place with a time of 20:38.  The Masters Overall Winners were Roger Travis (18:41) and Debra Daley (20:38).

The Hibiscus Festival is a yearly celebration for the City of Vero Beach, to increase awareness of the historic downtown sector, raise funds for the two sponsoring non-profits that work towards the preservation and growth of the area (Main Street Vero Beach and Vero Heritage, Inc.) and encourages community participation from residents, organizations and businesses.

The next Festival and 5K Run will be held on Saturday, April 16, 2011.

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