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Soldiers, veterans and families begin the Windy 25 5K run, at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019.
Soldiers, veterans and families begin the Windy 25 5K run, at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers, veterans and families begin the Windy 25 5K run, at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019.
Soldiers, veterans and families begin the Windy 25 5K run, at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
The former commander of the "Big Windy," Craig Wilhelm, center, salutes the memorial to the crew of the Windy 25 flight at Ansbach, Germany, on Sept. 6, 2019, as soldiers with the Army's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade stand at attention during the playing of taps, before the Windy 25 5K race.
The former commander of the "Big Windy," Craig Wilhelm, center, salutes the memorial to the crew of the Windy 25 flight at Ansbach, Germany, on Sept. 6, 2019, as soldiers with the Army's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade stand at attention during the playing of taps, before the Windy 25 5K race. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Craig Wilhelm, the former commander of "Big Windy," center, speaks to the crowd at the Windy 25 5K race at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019.
Craig Wilhelm, the former commander of "Big Windy," center, speaks to the crowd at the Windy 25 5K race at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers, veterans and families run in the Windy 25 5K run at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019.
Soldiers, veterans and families run in the Windy 25 5K run at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers, veterans and families lower their heads as a chaplain says a prayer before the Windy 25 5K run at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. The race memorializes those who died in the Windy 25 helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2005 and raises money for families who have lost loved ones in the military.
Soldiers, veterans and families lower their heads as a chaplain says a prayer before the Windy 25 5K run at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. The race memorializes those who died in the Windy 25 helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2005 and raises money for families who have lost loved ones in the military. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
The memorial to the crew who lost their lives at the Windy 25 flight over Ghazni, Afghanistan, in 2005, on display in Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019.
The memorial to the crew who lost their lives at the Windy 25 flight over Ghazni, Afghanistan, in 2005, on display in Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Capt. Cody Omilusik, the commander of "Big Windy," runs with a baby in a jogging stroller during the Windy 25 5K memorial run at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019.
Capt. Cody Omilusik, the commander of "Big Windy," runs with a baby in a jogging stroller during the Windy 25 5K memorial run at Ansbach, Germany, Sept. 6, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)

ANSBACH, Germany — More than 200 soldiers, veterans and family members gathered here for a run Friday to remember the 18 lives lost in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan 14 years ago.

Fourteen soldiers, one Marine, and three civilian contractors died when their CH-47 Chinook — dubbed “Windy 25” after the soldiers’ unit, Company F of the 159th Aviation Regiment, which is nicknamed “Big Windy” — flew into a sandstorm on April 6, 2005.

The run, called the Windy 25 5K, is a way for unit members and others to show their support for the families of those who lost their lives and ensure their memories are not forgotten, said the event’s founder, Craig Wilhelm.

Now retired, Wilhelm was the commander of Big Windy when the crash took place in eastern Afghanistan.

“They were our battle buddies,” a teary-eyed Wilhelm said. “This is the least we can do to help their families through the grieving process, and make sure they know their loved ones’ life stories are never forgotten.”

Friday’s event was the fourth memorial run held by the brigade in Germany. The German-based run is paired with a 5K in Las Vegas, held in March, which is now in its ninth year.

The two runs have so far raised more than $625,000 for charities that help families who have lost loved ones in the military. The organizers hope donations gathered at this year’s events will help them pass the $700,000 mark.

Many of the current 12th CAB soldiers weren’t part of the unit, or even in the Army, in 2005. But the events have gotten bigger each year as soldiers turn out by the hundreds to remember their fallen comrades, said Capt. Cody Omilusik, the current “Big Windy” commander.

“Once you are part of the ‘Big Windy’ family, you’re in our family for life,” he said.

egnash.martin@stripes.com Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

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