WHEELING - The flood of emotion that fills the waning moments of the Ogden 20K Torch Relay is what Race Director Robert "Scat" Scatterday hoped for when the event was being considered.
The most powerful moment occurs when West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who closes the relay, turns the corner from Chapline Street to 14th Street nearing the destination of the Ogden 20K start-finish line. Bearing that flame, the Mountain State's leader is followed by four generations of U.S. veterans - men and women who valiantly served this country.
At that point, Scatterday is overcome with disparate feelings. Tears fill his eyes yet his heart swells with pride. In those moments he mourns those who lost their lives in service to this nation, but joy fills his heart as he celebrates what those veterans achieved. The Ogden 20K Torch Relay is Scatterday's vision.
Shown is Major Melvin Kahle, left, who is the announcer for the Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk and a member of the race committee; West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin; and Race Director Robert “Scat” Scatterday, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force. The men are shown in Manchin’s office discussing the upcoming Ogden 20K Torch Relay in which they all will participate. Manchin said Thursday he is again honored to take part in the event. The 20K Torch Relay begins at 4 p.m. Friday.
For more than three decades, the Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk has been held Memorial Day weekend. Scatterday believed it would be fitting for the race to recognize the servicemen and women and their families on such an important and special holiday.
Scatterday said the response to the first two years of the Ogden 20K Torch Relay was overwhelming. A Blackhawk helicopter landing again will be a highlight of this year's Torch Relay, and the 249th West Virginia Army National Guard Bugle Corps also will perform.
Scatterday expects another emotional response to this year's tribute to veterans.
"I had a sense that since (the race) was close to Memorial Day, we should also be about honoring veterans," Scatterday said. "I knew there was a void in honoring them. What I didn't realize was how large it was. When I created it, what I thought would be a small response became a large response."
"It's unbelievable," he added. "Strangers called me on the phone crying - thanking me. I actually cried at the moment in the ceremony when "echo Taps" is played. It was something else."
Veterans honored in the Ogden 20K Torch Relay are represented in four categories. Those who served from 1991-present day are considered "Gulf War-Era Veterans," while those who served from 1960-1990 are labeled as "Vietnam-Era Veterans." "Korean War-Era Veterans" represent those who served from 1950-59, and those who served prior to 1950 are considered "WWII-Era Veterans."
Each of those groups will be led in the Ogden 20K Torch Relay by a veteran hero of that particular era. Lt. Col. Paul Hicks will lead the Gulf War-Era Veterans while Commander Bob Kota will front the Vietnam-Era veterans. Technical Sgt. Jim Koonce will head the Korean War-Era Veterans, and the WWII-Era Veterans will be led by Gunnery Sgt. Dale Sigler.
Scatterday said veterans of each category will take part in this year's Torch Relay, and family members also will walk for deceased veterans or those unable to take part in the event. Those not able to walk in the procession can participate by riding along in a trolley provided by the race.
John Nanny served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he now is the commandant of the Jones-Wolin-O'Brien Marine Corps League of Wheeling. He recently was selected as the senior vice commandant for the Marine Corps League Department of West Virginia. Nanny has taken part in the two prior Ogden 20K Torch Relays, and he will take part in this year's tribute to the veterans.
"We can't forget the people who gave us this opportunity - the people who serve," Nanny said. "When someone honors them, I have to support it. I think it's a nice gesture.
"When you get around a bunch of marines, it rekindles your faith," he added. "We do anything to get the vets recognized."
On Thursday, Manchin said he is again excited to lead the Torch Relay procession. He commended the Ogden Newspapers, city of Wheeling and organizers of the Ogden 20K Classic. Manchin said the race is an excellent sporting event, and the Torch Relay is a fitting tribute to veterans.
The Torch Relay "does a great job honoring our veterans every year," Manchin said. "This annual relay has become quite a tradition, and I am happy to be part of an event with such a great purpose - to honor those who have always answered the call of duty, our veterans. I applaud the city of Wheeling, Ogden Newspapers, the Torch Relay committee and the local residents for working together to make this a top-notch community event for all ages. It is truly an amazing race."
The Mountain State's top elected official may headline the Ogden 20K Torch Relay, but there is a strong supporting cast of Ohio County and Wheeling officials who also will carry the torch. Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart, Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler, Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie, City Manager Robert Herron and Police Chief Kevin Gessler will each lead the procession during portions of Ogden 20K Torch Relay.
Scatterday not only works to honors veterans - he is one. He is retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving 37 years. Scatterday flew 4,000 hours as a fighter pilot in 136 combat missions during the Vietnam War. He's highly decorated, earning15 medals.
Scatterday said his goal in creating the Torch Relay was to honor not only veterans, but their families as well. Scatterday believes the Ogden 20K Torch Relay is a beautiful tribute to those who serve and the people who love them.
"I've always wanted them to know what it means to me, but I never had the way," Scatterday said. "The people running in the groups are veterans and veterans' families. They (family members) may put on a piece of a uniform in the Torch Relay or sometimes they just wear a sign that says 'thank you.'"
The following torch bearers will lead the way during the Ogden 20K Torch Relay, which begins at 4 p.m. Friday in Elm Grove.