Widow runs 10K to honor husband

Courtesy photo Pernethea Evans’ husband, Cannon Air Force Base Capt. Kermit Evans, was killed in an Iraq helicopter crash in 2006.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Pernethea Evans joined thousands in Washington, D.C., last weekend to run in the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon in honor of fallen service members.

Evans’ husband, Cannon Air Force Base Capt. Kermit O. Evans, was killed 10 months ago in Iraq.

Running in the 10-kilometer event on Team TAPS, or Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Evans said crossing the finish line was emotional, but “I didn’t cry until later.”

“While we were running, we jogged by Arlington (National Cemetery) ,and I looked over to the left and I could see headstones, and I said to myself, ‘Just know that he’s with you and keep going,’ and I kept going,” she said.

Although she worked with a trainer to prepare for the race, Evans said the six-mile trek was difficult.

“Every day, I told my trainer, ‘I’m not a runner,’” she said laughing.

The Las Vegas, Nev., resident raised $3,500 for the TAPS program through sponsor donations.

Many of those donations came from Cannon Air Force Base airmen who had worked with Capt. Evans.

TAPS is a national nonprofit organization serving families, friends and military service members who have been affected by a death in the armed services. The organization offers peer support, crisis response and intervention, grief care and counseling resources and long-term survivor wellness.

“(TAPS) is a great organization,” 1st Lt. Marc Johansen said, “and we wanted to support her (Pernethea) however we could.”

Pernethea Evans, 30, said she chose to participate in the race because TAPS representatives were a tremendous help after her husband’s death.

“I received lots of phone calls and e-mails,” she said. “They were always checking in with me to make sure I was OK.”

Donna Vannes, whose husband worked under Kermit Evans’ command at Cannon, said her family made a donation when they heard Evans was running the race.

“I was just really impressed that she would run the (race) in his honor,” she said, “not just sit home and wallow in self pity, but to actually get out and support others going through what she’s going through.”

A bomb disposal specialist, Capt. Evans, 31, died in December 2006 when the U.S. Marine Corps helicopter in which he was riding made an emergency water landing in the western Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

He is also survived by his now 2-year-old son Kermit Jr.

Pernethea Evans said she initially set out to raise $1,000.

“All this money will be used to fund TAPS programs,” she said. “TAPS and the families of those who have died in service to America greatly appreciate all the support and donations.”

— CNJ staff writer Tonya Fennell contributed to this story

On the ’Net
TAPS Web site: www.taps.org