Danville's naked runner helps war families

May 25, 2009 7:33:15 PM PDT
He is a bit of a novelty on the streets of Danville, but the man who runs every night, wearing little more than an American flag tied to his waist is on a mission to help the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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No matter the day, whether in darkness or light, sun or rain, even in a driving hailstorm, 60-year-old George Cave runs six miles to pay tribute to the American servicemen and women killed in Iraq.

"They paid the ultimate price for freedom," Cave said.

Cave wears a flag on his behind, a fanny pack and little else.

A retired Marine, "Sparky George," as he is called, first set out on his mission seven years ago.

"To support their effort, their mission, unlike Vietnam, this would be my give-back to them," Cave said.

When Cave is not running to raise awareness about those who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is raising money to help the families they left behind.

Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Arroyave was killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq in 2004. Through his Web site Hats Off America and other fundraisers, Cave has raised $16,000 for Arroyave's widow Rachelle and their three young children.

Cave also participates in events held by groups like gold star families.

"They're not just our kids, they're America's kids," Beverly Balsley said.

Balsley's son, Army Calvary Scout Michael Balsley was killed in January 2007 by a roadside bomb, while on patrol east of Baghdad.

"I've met Sparky several times and he's an incredible man; he's also a veteran and what he does for the Gold Star families and their support is very, very appreciated," Balsley said.

Cave calls himself the "Bear Flag Runner", but he has also been called the "Naked Runner" because in certain conditions, he looks nearly naked.

"Many nights in the winter time, all I look like is a naked person, and a flag," Cave said.

Sometimes, Cave has been a target for those who perhaps do not like what he stands for.

"I've been hit twice with bottles to the back of the head as I run," Cave said.

But for the most part, passers-by, including the local police, have been very supportive.

"If people see me doing this, maybe someone else will recognize these families, their plight, their pain and step up too," Cave said.

LINK: Hats Off America

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