The annual Torch Run for the Special Olympics in Hawaii kicked off this week in the sand, but a far different kind of sand than the beaches of the Big Island.

More than 350 soldiers and civilians at Camp Speicher in northern Iraq held a 5k run that started the torch along its path to the opening ceremonies in Hawaii at the end of May.

Soldiers from the 728th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade and Multi-National Division—North sponsored the run, in honor of the Troy Barboza Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics that has been held for 21 years in Hawaii.

“The Special Olympics Torch was hand-carried when our unit deployed to Iraq from Hawaii back in November,” said 2nd Lt. Jody Holeton, a signal officer with the 728th MP Battalion and a run coordinator.

The torch will make its way to Hawaii, where more than 1,000 law enforcement officers are to participate in the Oahu Torch Run at Turtle Bay on May 22. The torch will be used in the Special Olympics Hawaii Summer Games opening ceremony at Les Murakami Stadium on May 25.

Barboza, for whom the race is named, was a Special Olympics coach and Hawaii Police Department undercover detective who was murdered in 1987 by a drug gang.

Soldiers from the 728th MP Battalion first participated in the run in 2007 in Hawaii.

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