SSG Aaron Butler will be remembered in Idaho 5K/10K run this August
by Rhett Sifford
It has been 19 months since SSG Aaron Butler was killed while battling Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. This summer, former teammates will honor the Monticello Special Forces soldier with a trail run bearing his name in Eagle, ID.
The Inaugural SSG Aaron Butler Memorial Purple Heart Run, a 5K/10K event, will take place at the Eagle Bike Park on August 17 – two years and a day after Butler’s death. Dan Nelson, who led Butler’s battalion, and fellow veteran Dan Muguira organized the event.
Nelson, 36, was one of eleven soldiers wounded in the same blast that killed Butler. Last August, on the first anniversary of Butler’s death, several of Nelson’s fellow Green Berets gathered in Idaho to mourn together.
“There are a bunch of emotions that we don’t really know what to do with,” Nelson said, “simultaneous pride, anger, frustration, happiness, grief, and guilt.” He said he was inspired to organize something that was worthy of Butler and his life.
Nelson described Butler as a special person as well as a special soldier. “He was exceptionally talented – a chronic overachiever,” he said. “He was just a double tough guy who also was incredibly smart, and he did everything right.”
It’s fitting that an event named after Butler will be just as tough. Nelson said Butler was a physical force and he wanted to allow people to connect with him in that way.
Participants can run, walk or “ruck” the race, which costs $30. The courses will feature photos and stories of Purple Heart recipients who were killed in action.
Nelson said he hopes the event helps to connect the current generation with other warrior generations from Vietnam, Korea, and WWII and that the civilian population will take the opportunity to understand that wars are still happening and many people are still sacrificing.
Nelson said he would like to see many from Monticello make the journey. “I really hope that people down there get to see – whether on the Internet, newspaper, or firsthand – that one of their native sons is important to more than just them and there are other people who are not going to let his memory pass.”
Butler’s entire Special Forces team visited his Monticello gravesite in January 2018 and it’s a trip Nelson plans to make a tradition for the rest of his life.
“It’s good for outsiders like us to see places that he talked about and hear stories from his friends and family of stuff he used to do as a high school kid. It’s hard to explain how meaningful that interaction is. Aaron was extremely special and he meant a lot to me.”
Nelson said he doesn’t want people to expect a funeral at the August 17 event. “We hope that the memories create lots of smiles and laughs even though we also expect some tears,” he explained.
Nelson said there are plans to expand the run in future years, both in locations and frequency. “We’ll never make it a for-profit event and we’ll never make it boring or subpar, because that’s just not fair to Aaron’s life and memory.”
Funds raised at the Inaugural SSG Aaron Butler Purple Heart Run go directly to the Idaho Department and Chief Joseph Chapter 509 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, which provide support for Idaho veterans.
The run is open to everyone, not just military members or medal recipients. Find full details at RunSignup.com/Race/ID/Eagle/PurpleHeartRun.