In November 2013, when I walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in San Diego, my teammate and I were approaching a pit stop on the first day when we spotted a flag fluttering up ahead. Flags are a common sight on the Komen 3-Day, as walkers carry dozens of tall pink banners on the route, encouraging each other with their phrases of inspiration. But this was a flag that wasn’t so common on the 3-Day® – this was a full-sized American flag being carried by two men.
When we got closer, I got a better look at the pair. They wore matching pink socks and pink t-shirts with a beautiful young woman’s picture on them. We stopped and my teammate asked if she could take their photo (as many other walkers were doing, too), then we moved on. I spotted them a few more times throughout the weekend—they were hard to miss, with the Stars and Stripes always flying over their shoulders—but didn’t really get their story until months later, when I was thinking about how to commemorate Independence Day on the 3-Day blog. I immediately thought, “What about those guys in San Diego who carried the flag?”
We did a little research and discovered that “those guys” are Bob and Rob H., a father and son from Southern California. Both men were first-time walkers in San Diego last year, taking part in the 3-Day in support of Heather, the woman whose picture they wore on their shirts. Heather is Bob’s daughter and Rob’s sister, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2013 at the age of 38.
Rob shared, “She had started undergoing treatment last summer, and we wanted to raise money for [Susan G. Komen®] because we were impressed with their use of the money over other charities (large percentage going towards research and offsetting expenses for those that can’t afford things associated with treatment, insurance, various other expenses, etc.). We wanted to contribute to the effort.”
And what about the flag? Heather told us, “My brother has been a competitive runner for many years. He has done triathlons, Ironman and Ultraman races. When he does his races he is always carrying the American flag. My family is a military family. My dad is a retired Marine of 30 years, my brother Rob is an active duty Marine and my husband is also an active duty Marine.”
Rob added, “Being Marines and proud patriots, my dad and I carried the American flag to foster camaraderie, motivation and inspiration to our fellow walkers. No matter what is going on in the world, everybody gets behind a flying American flag!”
Bob and Rob will not be walking this year (Rob is in the process of moving to the East Coast on new military orders), but Heather will carry on the legacy that her family started last year and will walk in her first 3-Day this November in San Diego as a proud survivor.
Heather’s team, appropriately, is Team Semper Fi.
Semper Fi is short for “Semper Fidelis,” the motto of the U.S. Marines. Translated, it means “Always Faithful.” I can’t think of a more perfect name for a family who came together and endured the fear and pain of a breast cancer diagnosis, stepped up to it and walked 60 miles toward a cure, all the while maintaining faith in the power of pink, under the colors of red, white and blue.