|Return to Cawley's profile | Return to the list|
Team will honor Cawley in Four Winds
Staff Sgt. James Cawley died more than four months ago in Iraq, but his spirit will roam over the Wasatch Mountains this week. A military team entered in the Four Winds USA Supreme Adventure Race, which begins here this morning, will compete in memory of Cawley, the first Utah casualty of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The former Salt Lake City police officer was killed near Nasiriyah on March 29 when he was struck by a Humvee during a fire fight.
"We were looking for a way to give back to our sponsors and our fellow soldiers," said Maj. Marc Hoffmeister, who heads Veteran Leader, a three-man, one-woman Colorado team sponsored by the Veterans of the Vietnam War. "The closest thing to all of us is a fallen soldier."
About 80 racers in mixed and same-gender teams will compete in the multisport event, which includes mountain biking, rappelling, trekking, trail running and -- for the first time in an adventure race -- power-parachuting.
Ten of 26 teams will compete in a weeklong, 400-mile version, with the other teams racing 150 miles in three days.
Before being deployed to Iraq with his Marine Corps reserve unit, Cawley served in the Salt Lake police with the senior non-commissioned officer in Hoffmeister's battalion.
Although the media spotlight has largely shifted from Iraq, Hoffmeister and his teammates wanted to let Cawley's family know that he has not been forgotten by his fellow soldiers.
"We're military," Hoffmeister said. "We're a very close-knit family. We don't forget."
The hardship they endure as adventure racers also symbolizes what soldiers go through in combat, he said.
Veteran Leader has previously dedicated races to two Vietnam vets and Medal of Honor winners, Capt. Rocky Versace and Spc. 5th Class John Kedenburg, and to Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, who died in Somalia.
Cawley's former police SWAT team donated urban-camouflage patches, with a black, white and gray U.S. flag and Cawley's name and call letters, "Sierra 21," on them. Veteran Leader will wear the patches on its race bibs. The team also had T-shirts made up with Cawley's name emblazoned on the back.
Cawley's former police comrades hope to be at the finish line when Veteran Leader finishes the race.
"They're going to try to get their training day shifted, so the whole team can come to it," Hoffmeister said.
A week after the race, Hoffmeister himself leaves for Iraq. He had his orders adjusted so he could complete the race before beginning a one-year deployment.