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Officers pay tribute to fallen in 45-mile run
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Turlock Police Lt. Neil Cervenka (left) and Modesto Police Detective Sean Dodge completed a 45-mile run on Sept. 15 in dress uniforms to honor local fallen law enforcement officers. It included stops at cemeteries to salute them, such as here at the Lakewood grave of Deputy Dennis Wallace. - photo by Contributed

A Turlock Police lieutenant and a Modesto Police detective could have been in their civilian clothes Saturday relaxing and enjoying a day off. Instead, they donned their Class-A uniforms and ran 45 miles to pay tribute to every fallen law enforcement and community service officers that have died in the line of duty in Stanislaus County.

Lt. Neil Cervenka and Detective Sean Dodge started at 3 a.m. Sept. 15 at the Oakdale Cemetery and ran to St. Stanislaus Cemetery and Acacia cemeteries in Modesto, the Ceres Memorial Park, the Turlock Memorial Park, the Denair Cemetery, and finally ended at Lakewood Memorial Park to show their gratitude to those law enforcement members whose oath to protect and serve has been paid with their lives. 

Not only did the two men run 45 miles, they did it in full gear, which includes ties, dress shoes, ballistic vests, and fully loaded duty belts. In total, it adds about 25 pounds to each runner.

At each gravesite, representatives from the Peace Officer Memorial Group would announce the name of the officer.  Dodge and Cervenka would come to attention and salute.  A patch from the group was then placed on the headstone.  At some of the sites, families of the fallen were present.

“Despite the soaked uniforms, families were more than willing to give a hug,” Cervenka said.

The run concluded at the Peace Officer Memorial at Lakewood Memorial Park to honor the three officers who are buried out of county or out of state.

This was not the first time Cervenka and Dodge have taken on full uniform runs, but it was certainly the longest, and the added distance didn’t go unnoticed.

“About mile 35, doubt crept in,” Cervenka wrote on his Facebook page. “I seriously considered getting in the van and riding the rest of the way. I thought about my uniform running friends Joe Cirrito, Aaron Lewallen, Patrick Michael, Eric Baade, Dan Pasquale, Keegan Hughes, Jim Gordon, and Joso Hamerc. They have done Iron Man’s in uniform. They have battled cancer and run in uniform. They have donated a kidney and run in uniform. They have run across STATES in uniform. I just had blisters and pain. The closer we got to Lakewood, the more I thought about the reason we were doing this. To remember the fallen.”

Peace Officer Memorial Group sponsored the run ahead of the Peace Officer Memorial Run half marathon and 5K on Oct. 7, in Modesto.  To join the run visit to register.