By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
When Dave Sivewright goes for a run, it’s difficult not to take notice.
Since moving to Sultan this summer, Sivewright has been running along U.S. Highway 2 with a four-foot by six-foot American flag mounted on an eight-foot staff. A Sergeant First Class at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Marysville, Sivewright has been running with the flag for three years, all in the name of pride, duty and honor. Now in Sultan, he’s been coined the “Highway 2 Freedom Runner,” and has been embraced by both the residents of the valley and the people just passing through.
“I have never witnessed the type of pride that’s in this valley,” said Sivewright. “And it’s not just Sultan. It’s Monroe, Gold Bar, Index. It’s just amazing.”
His Freedom Runner Facebook page, started by Sivewright and his current partner, Sultan resident Christina Nelson, received over 650 “likes” in less than a month and has touched people in 20 countries. Sivewright receives continual support from travelers who see him out running along the highway. They post comments and photos, always thanking him for his service.
A particularly touching moment occurred recently as he was running through Sultan. A mother and daughter noticed him, then parked at the Red Apple grocery store and got out of their vehicle. They placed their hands over their hearts as he ran by.
“I saluted them,” said Sivewright.
Sivewright, who has nearly 17 years in the military, started running in 2009 while stationed in Vancouver, Wash. as a way to shed a few extra pounds and get in shape. In response to poor economic conditions at that time causing people to lose their jobs, homes and livelihoods, Sivewright decided he wanted to do something to lift spirits. Something like running with an American flag.
“It’s not political,” said Sivewright. “It’s not left wing; it’s not right wing… It’s just spreading some pride.”
His first run with the American flag took place on Feb. 24, 2010 and right away the response he received was heartening. Heartening enough to inspire him to do it again, and heartening enough that it continues to inspire him every time he runs.
“It’s my motivation to get out there and run and push myself,” said Sivewright.
Once he grew accustomed to the added weight of the flag, Sivewright was able to increase his distance rapidly, and his flag runs started to exceed the 10-mile mark. Once reassigned to Salt Lake City, Utah, he continued to run with the flag, and in April of 2011 Sivewright ran the Salt Lake City half marathon, crossing the finish line with his flag held high.
In 2012, Sivewright was deployed to Kuwait, and although his flag running was put on a temporary hold, the path leading him to Sultan was soon to be blazed. In January of this year, while still in Kuwait, Sivewright he met his now-girlfriend, Nelson, and the two began to cultivate an online relationship. Nelson started her “Good Morning Dave” project, as a way of supporting him while he was serving oversees.
“Every day I had a ‘Good Morning Dave’ sign, and I had pictures of him and his battalion on the back,” explained Nelson.
Nelson would approach people, show them the sign and the pictures, and ask if they wouldn’t mind saying good morning to a soldier in Kuwait. As they held up the sign, Nelson, who enjoys photography, would snap their picture.
“I got a really good response to that,” said Nelson. “Everyone was happy to do it.”
She approached anyone she encountered; from UPS drivers to members of local rock bands and anyone in between. Nelson sent the photos to Sivewright via email every night before she went to sleep. She is now recycling those original “Good Morning Dave” photos and posting them up on the Facebook page.
Sivewright returned from his deployment in April of this year to his home in Utah. He moved to Everett shortly thereafter and in June he connected with Nelson. The two have been together ever since.
Nelson, who works at the Monroe WorkSource office, has loved seeing the momentum build as Sivewright has gained respect and recognition due to his running with the flag. The two have started to use that momentum to help in the community with food drives and fundraising.
“We feel very blessed to be in this community,” said Nelson. “I love the valley and it’s just nice to give back.”
With his first American flag, Sivewright ran regularly though Vancouver, Wash., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Ridgefield Wash., which is home to his three sons. Once he had achieved 2,000 miles, Sivewright donated that flag to the city of Ridgefield, handing it over to a member of the American Legion. So far, 52-year-old Sivewright has accumulated 700 miles on his current flag, and hopes to make it to 1,000 before the year is over.
He runs from four to eight miles at a time through Sultan, Gold Bar and Monroe, with significant portions of his routes taking him along U.S. 2.
Sivewright admits that he’s been “blown away” by the outpouring of support, and is grateful for every acknowledgment he receives whether it’s a honk or a wave, a peace sign or a salute. He also loves that much of his support is coming from the youth of the valley.
“At least 40 percent of the people who like that page are in high school,” said Sivewright, referring to his Freedom Runner Facebook page.
Even his moniker, the “Highway 2 Freedom Runner,” was developed by Allaura Adams, a recent graduate of Sultan High School. Adams, who ran with Sivewright on the 4th of July, is currently serving in the National Guard.
Sivewright will be running with his flag in the Monroe High School Performing Arts Boosters “Run for the Arts” 5K event on Saturday, Oct. 5 at Lake Tye Park.
For more information on Sivewright, please visit his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/HWY-2-Freedom-Runner/665996226746058.