On June 30, 2020, a tragic plane crash at Shaw Air Force Base shook the entire community- both the base, and the local Sumter community. 1st Lt David “MEZr” Schmitz lost his life doing something that he loved- flying planes. Immediately thereafter, the Sumter and Shaw AFB community responded with red ribbons on mailboxes to show support for David’s wife, Valerie, his family, and the 77th Fighter Squadron community. Close friends and family in the F-16 community sprung to action to care for 1st Lt Schmitz’s wife, and to keep his legacy strong— they swiftly founded the Lt David Schmitz Foundation which fundraises to benefit those aspiring to be aviators, like Dave, who are “passionate, hard-working, and have a strong will to succeed!”
A Memorial 5K on the Shaw AFB flight line, serves to honor 1st Lt David “MEZr” Schmitz, who gave his life in defense of the United States. This run is important fundraiser for the Foundation, and more importantly, an incredibly meaningful experience for all participants. A run on the flight line is a fitting way to remember Dave, as it combines his love for aviation and running. His wife, Valerie, shared that when they were stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Tacoma, Washington), Dave was a member of Tacoma Runners- a running group that hosted weekly runs and social gatherings. Dave enjoyed fitness—he competed in several races including a duathlon, many half marathons, 10Ks and quite a few 5Ks. Overall, Dave enjoyed working out and he loved being able to measure his fitness progress— whether through completing more reps in a set, adding more weight during an OLY lift, or running a bit faster than his previous time. Furthermore, Dave motivated and inspired Valerie to push a little harder and run a little faster. Valerie and Dave ran their first half-marathon together; although finishing at separate times, Dave was there to encourage and cheer for Valerie as she crossed the finish line.
The first 5K in 1st Lt Schmitz’s honor took place on a gorgeous and bright day on the Shaw AFB flight line. I found out about the Memorial 5K run through a running friend that needed to borrow a double stroller. Over the years, our family acquired many “wheeled items” in our garage— most of which consists of our running stroller fleet! I was happy they reached out as I then learned about the memorial 5K. Our whole family completed the 5K through a combination of running, biking, and stroller pushing/riding! Though this became an event through a horrific tragedy, runners were incredibly motivated to run for 1st Lt Schmitz, and kids taking to the course were bursting with excitement as they raced their bikes along the same runways that the Vipers use. This was my first road race in South Carolina after running numerous trail Ultra-Marathons, and my first time running on a flight line. I could see everything- from my friend over a mile away being the first across the finish line with his dog, my kids and their friends not far behind him on their bikes, and my husband about ½ mile away running with our daughter in the stroller. As I ran, I saw a sea of red (runners wearing red squadron shirts) and thought about WHY we run. We run to remember. Every race is exciting, but this race was, and still is immensely powerful.
Additionally, during the entire month of June 2021, Valerie created and challenged herself to complete the “MEZr Challenge” in honor of Dave:
- Pick a workout, any kind of workout, as long as you can measure progress, and complete the workout 4 times improving on each. 4 times represents Dave’s time in the 4th Airlift Squadron️.
- For an endurance boost, choose an activity (running, walking, hiking, cycling, etc.) and either complete that activity for a total of 77 minutes or 7.7 miles (or km if that is your preference). 77 minutes or 7.7 miles to represent his time with the 77th Fighter Squadron ️
- This challenge can be done in a day, or over the course of a few weeks, or even a month. Each “MEZr Challenge” is unique to each individual’s personal goals ️
For Val’s “MEZr Challenge” she gave herself the month of June to complete the "Manitou Incline" 4 times in the month of June, each time improving upon the last. She has done it 3 times so far and next week she needs to beat 1 hour, 14 minutes. #FlyFightLiveProudforSchmitty
Many will have the opportunity to run the Memorial 5K race on 30 June 21. Anyone can run this race as it is also being offered virtually, for more information please visit the following link- https://www.ltschmitzfoundation.org/5krun . You can also create your own “MEZr Challenge” in honor of 1st Lt David “MEZr” Schmitz.