SCHENECTADY N.Y. (NEWS10) — Two local men are running for those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. These men have a very special task to carry an American flag through the race.
On Sunday, runners Michael Newhouse and Andy LaPorta honored fallen Army Spec. Abigail Jenks and Sgt. Raymond W. Warlikowski during the Miles on the Mohawk Marathon, in Schenectady’s Mohawk Harbor. The men are with Flags 4 Fallen, a volunteer group that has carried more than 433 full-size USA flags, in 41 states, during races in memory of Americans who passed away too soon.
“The family knows that hey there is a complete stranger in us that cares. That’s why we’re doing it, and this is probably the most heartfelt race I have ever done,” said Newhouse.
“They are the story not me. I’m just a runner, whose carrying the flag,” said LaPorta.
A 20-year-old Saratoga County native, Jenks passed away last month during a parachute accident in Fort Bragg. Newhouse says it was an honor to carry a flag for her and to have her picture on his back. “From her artistry to her love for animals, rescue—I was completely blown away by how much a 20-year-old accomplished,” he said.
Abigail’s mom, Mary Jenks, was also at the race and made signs for the day. “I made a sign that said, ‘You got this.’ This is actually the saying I had actually told Abigail right before she jumped,” she said.
41-year-old Sgt. Raymond Warlikowski, a Schuylerville High School graduate, served in the army for 20 years before passing away in 2016. He served this country on multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
LaPorta says Sgt. Raymond was not only a true fighter, but a true foodie. “He really liked chicken wings, and [his mom] sent some pictures to as we were getting to know him. And he had this number he was holding, it was like 325—I’m like, ‘Nah.’ So I had asked her, ‘Did he do 325 wings?’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ She didn’t know how long it took him to do it,” LaPorta said.
As Newhouse and LaPorta crossed the finish line, they handed their flags off to both mothers of fallen soldiers. “When the flag comes to me, I know where it’s been. And who knows where it’s going after this,” said Jenks.
She says the flags represent unity for all those who have sacrificed for our country not just today but everyday. “Memorial Day is about the soldiers who never made it out of their uniform, and that’s what this day is about,” said Jenks.
Newhouse and LaPorta say they will continue to carry the legacy of these two fallen soldiers.