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Airman carries American flag on runs to honor PTSD sufferer

February 9, 2019

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Master Sgt. Trevor Derr finds the motivation to run every day by thinking of his good friend Daniel.

Stationed together at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina early on in his nearly 18-year military career, Derr met Daniel in 2004 and they quickly became friends.

As the two airmen moved to different bases and Derr ended up in Dover, the friends never lost contact and remained close.

In 2017, Derr got a call saying Daniel took his own life after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault, according to the American Physiactric Association.

Devastated and wanting to keep his friend’s memory alive, the APG section chief for the 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at DAFB decided he would run to honor his friend.

Derr set out in January 2018 with a lofty goal of logging 1,000 miles in a year. When life — family, work, nursing school — got in the way, he knew he needed something to get him off the couch and keep him motivated.

“Without hesitation, it hit me. I was going to start running to honor Daniel and to raise awareness about PTSD,” said the 35-year-old airman from Nottingham, Pennsylvania. “I’m running for him and for those who can’t run for themselves.”

Since April 2018, Derr has been carrying an American flag while running 3 to 5 miles nearly every day on and around Dover Air Force Base.

Sometimes he is joined by others who just want a running companion. Other times people ask if they can join him to help him shed light on PTSD. He said there have been as many as seven people running around the flag he carries.

“I always tell them to come for a mile and stay for the cause,” Derr said. “Back in the summer on the day shift, guys at work started running with me. They all had their reasons, but the consensus was we were running for Daniel.”

Derr used Delaware’s 2018 Monster Mash Half Marathon benefiting the Wounded Warriors Project to carry his PTSD message to the masses at the start of the race at Dover International Speedway.

He plans to run that again in October but also is training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November. Derr will add the name of a fallen comrade to each event in which he participates.

“I first ran for Daniel and another Dover Air Force Base airman who lost his life in 2013,” he said. “Each time I run, I’ll add another name. I run to honor everybody.”

He is moved and motivated by the waves and the honks he gets every day when he’s out on the road running.

“I love doing this and will do it as long as I can,” he said. “I love being able to carry the flag and honor my friends and inspire people. I want to help as many people as I can.”

Reach Jerry Smith at jsmith17@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JerrySmithTNJ.

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

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