U.S. Marine Corps veteran runs with American flag to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice

Gerald Hooee Jr.
Gerald Hooee Jr., a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, prepares to run with the American flag on Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25, in Murrieta. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Murrieta resident Gerald Hooee Jr. was spotted running with military gear and the American flag off Jackson Avenue on Memorial Day.

“I was a prior marine for about 12 and a half years,” Hooee said. “I got out in 2011 and served as an infantryman with 5th Marines mainly.”

He also did two tours to Iraq.

“One in 2004 and one in 2005,” Hooee said. “I’m currently working on Camp Pendleton as a civilian contractor and have been there for about eight and a half years now.”

He’s been running with a flag over Memorial Day weekend for the past four or five years.

“I started out on Friday, did a flag run for about 3 miles and that was toward the evening, and usually during this weekend I usually carry a flag with me,” Hooee said. “Then on Saturday, I did a morning hike, that hike was 5 3/4 miles carrying a 65-pound pack and I was just walking around the neighborhood.”

On Sunday, he did a 5 1/2-mile ruck run with a 35-pound pack on his back.

“I did a hike with a 35-pound pack and a vest on to a local gym, MetroFlex, and then I did a Murph (1-mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats and one more 1-mile run), and then I did a light workout and came back,” Hooee said of his workout on Memorial Day. “Altogether I did a 5-5 1/2-mile hike there and back.”

“I usually put music in my ears and chug along,” Hooee said. “I just continue pushing forward, kinda keeping the same mindset as you know, thinking about the fellow marines that we’ve lost in battle.

“Just kind of remembering how tired we were, how hot we were, how miserable and how lonely it is,” Hooee said of his time serving. “Being out there without family but we do have family with us which is our brothers, and that’s just kind of the same mindset that I have while I’m doing this physical training or physical workouts, just remembering them.”

It’s not just Marines that Hooee thinks about, but all branches.

“All the brothers and sisters that we’ve lost, the families are heartbroken during this time of year,” Hooee said.

Once a neighbor to Hooee, Brenda Morris lived in the same neighborhood as him and his family.

“There’s this thing that I really liked about him,” Morris said. “He went on a fifth-grade camp with all the kids last school year, and my daughter has special needs and he was in charge of her group. He really made her feel comfortable while she was out there.”

She said that she didn’t receive any phone calls needing to bring her home.

“He said she was really good, and it’s interesting because she usually doesn’t take to new people, especially men,” Morris said. “He’s got a good personality if my special needs daughter didn’t freak out on him.”

Morris added that he’s family oriented from what she can tell on Facebook, and that this was the first year she’d personally seen him do the run.

“He’s very active when it comes to military stuff and American stuff altogether,” Morris said. “He’s a good person you want to live in your community or neighborhood.”

After he comes home, Hooee puts his flag up in his house to let it fly the rest of the day.

“It’s just what I do, I try to get into that mindset of the pain that they have gone through,” Hooee said. “I just like to feel it just to remind myself that I’m alive, and I’m thankful for it.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.