Steps-n-Salutes Green Beret 5K was back for second year in September

By: Chuck Gibson

Runners and retired Green Beret’s came out in force for the second annual Steps-n-Salute Green Beret 5K September 15, in Loveland, Ohio.

The race took place under warm sunny skies on the Scenic Little Miami River Trail starting and finishing at Nesbit Park. There were close to 200 supporters on hand with about 150 running the race. It was one of three local weekend events (Cincinnati Green Beret Classic) held annually to raise funds for the Green Beret Foundation which supports members of the Green Beret in times of need.


“The energy and support of Green Beret Foundation helping us appreciate what Green Beret’s do for communities and our country is amazing,” said Char Cooper, Steps-n-Salutes 5K race event organizer. “Just this one event increases awareness and raises funds for this awesome charity – the Green Beret Foundation.”

Cooper noted the “amazing support for our military” shown by the community of Loveland. Many of the runners and some of the Green Beret on hand for the event reside in Loveland. The three events benefitting the Foundation over that weekend included a reception for 440 people on Sunday evening. A golf outing on Monday, September 16, wrapped up the Cincinnati Green Beret Classic weekend.

Fran Wesseling is leading the way for the Cincinnati Green Beret Classic.  She is the mother of retired U.S. Army Special Forces Major Darren R. Baldwin, member of the Board of Directors and Cincinnati Chapter Director.  Fran and her husband Jim Wesseling have been active ambassadors for the Green Beret Foundation since 2014. Their passion for helping the organization comes in response to the generous support by the Green Beret Foundation for her son’s medical needs.

“Before my son lost his ability to speak, he said do it for my brothers,” said Wesseling. “We continue to build awareness of the service and sacrifice they make and honor the foundation that stepped up to help.”

In just the four years since Wesseling began organizing the Cincinnati Classic weekend, more than $800, 000 has been raised for the GBF. The Sunday evening reception will honor a fallen Green Beret with a special ceremony for his Gold Star family.  There are other events allowing people to show their support at various venues throughout the year. “Riverboating for Berets” was held back in the spring. They come from Fort Campbell in Kentucky and The 19th Company out of Columbus. The support of the people means the most to Fran Wesseling. Her husband Jim ran in the Steps-n-Salutes and said: “It’s pretty emotional seeing all the people.”  

All the people include more than 100 volunteers who make the Cincinnati Green Beret Classic weekend happen. Wesseling estimates about 40 volunteers for the reception and golf event with 20, or so more volunteers working to help the Loveland Steps-n-Salutes Green Beret 5K go off without a hitch.

“I’m just amazed at all the people who come out to support the events, “she said. “It’s amazing the people over the last four years. We can’t do it without the volunteers. I am thankful for that.”

Members of the Red, White and Blue (RWB) were joined by GORUCK founder Jason McCarthy and other GORUCK members running the 5K in Loveland. Robb Kelly carried a flag for RWB during his run. It is a chance for him to fully honor and pay tribute to “those we’ll never know.” They could have saved hundreds of lives, live right next door to you and never let you know.

“They don’t talk about themselves,” said Kelly. “This is the least we can do; show up, carry a flag, be a proud American and honor our heroes.”

The GORUCK group is working a lot with the RWB at events like this one. GORUCK members were all carrying the rucksacks on their backs. It is all about the rucksacks and gear to support Special Forces.

“We try to get out and be more active,” said McCarthy.

Retired Green Beret David Decker was in full uniform and looked mission ready as he cheered on his daughter Sarah Decker who was running the 5K. Decker served during the Vietnam years starting in 1969, and going through Special Forces (Green Beret) training in 1970. He recalls several stories from his service as a Green Beret, but one stands out in his memory. It was a training drill in a field with no one else anywhere around. Just the Green Beret team as dusk fell. They saw a flag on a pole, stopped, got into formation, stood at attention saluting as they lowered the flag.

“That’s what patriotism is all about; doing something when nobody is even looking,” said Decker. “This event today makes you think the country hasn’t forgotten what it takes to defend the country. It’s good there are men and women still honoring those who gave their lives.”

Sarah Decker loves participating in the events for a cause, but especially with her dad coming out. He travelled from his home in Toledo to be in Loveland to support her and the Green Beret Foundation.

“It’s a big part of our family,” said Sarah Decker. “Dad, Uncle, Grandpa, Cousins. They didn’t talk about it, We hear a little more as dad has grown older. If they’re wearing the hat, I think it is appropriate to say thank you for your service.”

It is also appropriate to say thank you to Sarah, who, by the way finished third among all female runners, and to all the other 150 or so runners who raced the 5K to support the Green Beret Foundation. It is worth noting that Loveland resident Lauren Dunn won second place among all female runners.  Cincinnatian Zac Schneider crossed the line first followed closely by Kyle Metzger from Clarksville making it a one/two finish for the males.

Thank you for your service is the biggest reason for the Green Beret Foundation. It goes far beyond saying or hearing the words “Thank you for your service” though. The Green Beret Foundation reaches out a strong helping hand to military brothers in need, like helping to meet the medical needs of their brother U.S. Army Special Forces Major Darren R. Baldwin, son of Fran Wesseling. The Cincinnati Green Beret Classic weekend extends the helping hand by raising awareness and raising funds to support the organization that supports them.

Steps-n-Salutes Green Beret 5K race organizer Char Cooper said adding the race compliments an already amazing weekend. It is a way to include more people, more members from around the country. There was great participation by retired Green Beret and active duty Green Beret as well.

“I am so honored so many Green Beret’s came from around the country today, “Cooper said. “They joined in the patriotic sing-along, after party race and it just added a great air of celebration and patriotism to the Loveland community.”

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