Immediately after her husband, United States Marine Corps Sgt. Bill Callahan, was killed in action in Iraq on April 27, 2007, Amy Callahan benefited from an extraordinary flow of support, well wishes, love, and warmth. Amy appreciated all of this tremendously.
Amy and Bill’s only child, their son, Daniel Allan – only 17 days old when his dad gave his life for his country – also provided Amy comfort.
“I don’t know if I could have made it through all of it without Danny,” says Amy. Father and son never met.
Daniel Allan is named for Sgt. Callahan’s comrades – Sgt. Daniel Tsu and Navy Petty Officer Allan Cundanga Espiritu – who were killed in November 2005 in Iraq when the vehicle they were in hit and triggered an explosive device. Sgt. Callahan was also in the vehicle, and was wounded, but not seriously.
For sure, Amy, was not lacking for those willing to help. Yet the public spotlight in which her family was cast made her uneasy.
You see, Amy, a 1995 graduate of , is a shy person – and the public nature of her loss, that it was tethered to politics and currents events, and that the media came calling – created angst and distress for her as she grieved and cared for and protected her son.
“All of it was just so strange,” said Amy, who married Bill Callahan on February 25, 2003, while he was home on leave. “Even during the ceremonies for Bill at Arlington National Ceremony – I mean, a tour bus drove by. People were taking photos of us.”
After her husband’s death, Amy was the recipient of a lot of well-meaning advice. She listened and said thank you to all of it. Among the pieces of advice that were offered – advice that resonated quickly and deeply with Amy – was that to honor the life and keep vibrant the memory of someone you love who has passed on, you can take on some of the character and interests of that person, and establish something that embodies that character and those interests.
And in 2009 Callahan’s Run was born. It is an event that combines the loves and duty and honor of Sgt. William Callahan‘s life – a life of only 28 years, yet a life in which he gave so much and made such a positive impression on so many.
“Bill loved riding and working on motorcycles,” said Amy, who still lives in Easton. “Right after he graduated from high school [Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, Class of ‘97], he was working as a mechanic – and he had his own Harley, a ’78 model, that he bought and which he took apart, and then rebuilt to his specifications.
“Right after high school, Bill also joined the Marine Corps reserves. His work as a mechanic, is a primary reason that in the Marines Corps he became an explosive ordnance disposal – or EOD – technician. He got satisfaction in fixing things; he was fascinated in how things worked.”
Amy explained that Bill Callahan also had a “side-splitting sense of humor” that drew her to him. He enjoyed good friends and having a few beers and laughing and telling stories.
Callahan’s Run is a motorcycle rally, a sort of “rolling thunder” that raises money for the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation, which helps provides financial support for the wounded EOD warriors and their families.
“Bill had flown to Texas to visit in a military hospital, a fellow EOD tech who had been horribly wounded,” said Amy. “Bill was able to meet with his friend and comrade – but his friend did not survive; the injuries were too severe. Bill told me that he felt bad that the government only provided so much support for the EOD techs who had been injured, and their families. He said that the burden, beyond the stress and pain of dealing with the injuries, was immense – such as trying to pay the mortgage, and other bills. Paying for hotel rooms and meals and all, as families stayed near their loved one in the hospital, so that they could visit, was difficult. Families were falling into debt because a family member had been wounded.”
Reflecting on and appreciating sacrifice and what is important, having fun, getting people together and raising money for a most worthwhile cause – yes, this is Callahan’s Run – and this is a most fitting tribute to Sgt. William J. Callahan.
It looked, the day of the Third Annual Callahan’s Run. But the skies cleared, and the departure from – which annually serves as the base host of the run – was delayed only by about an hour. A load and throaty rumble of about 130 motorcycles left the Villa at about 1 p.m. rather than the originally scheduled noon.
There were many armed forces veterans participating in the ride, and there was no dearth of patriotic slogans and language that emblazoned tee shirts, jackets, and leather vests. Let’s just say this, it would have been foolhardy – extraordinarily foolhardy – to trash America among this crowd.
Leading and trailing the cavalcade of motorcycles – that stretched for a mile in length – was an Easton Police cruiser with flashing blue lights. The riders drove toward Stoughton along Rte. 138; they cut across Stoughton to Bay Road, then took Bay Road south. They connected with Rte. 104 in Raynham, then with 106, which they took back to Rte. 138, and then headed north back to the Villa.
Maybe 50 minutes after the riders left the Villa, they were back. And then a party began, with food, drink, and live music provided by the rock band, Slider – which, by the way, included in its offering that day several motivating and powerful American rock songs.
Owners of the Villa, the Richard family, had been busy for days preparing food and getting the venue ready – and they delivered big time again.
There were salads, sandwiches, trays of pizza, stuffed ziti, and hot dogs. If you wanted a cold beer, outdoor taps were set up in the parking lot – and drawing the drafts for people were Christine and Jenna, which is always a good thing (have you seen Christine and Jenna?).
There were raffles, the proceeds of which, along with the participation fee of $20 that each rider pays, will be given to the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation.
Enjoying the fun, even if he is not yet quite sure what it is all about was four-year-old Danny Allan Callahan.
“He knows his dad is in Heaven and that he was a Marine,” said Amy Callahan. “He will learn more as he grows older, but I don’t want to give him too much too soon. I don’t want things to be scary for him. I want him to be ready.”
I talked briefly with three Marines – Dan Healey, Derek Adamiec, and Joe Sulltan – who were close and served with Sgt. Callahan. Nice guys, all, they were enjoying the event, and they are proud of the service they shared with their comrade.
When the three men were asked if there was anything they wanted to say, Mr. Sulltan informed me that they had carried the casket of Sgt. Callahan from the military plane when it landed in the States, and that they had served as pallbearers at Sgt. Callahan’s funeral.
“That’s all that need be said,” Mr. Sulltan commented.
Indeed it is.
Amy Callahan understands, as soon will her son, that her husband was a hero, who gave all for this republic. She understands – as her husband fully understood – that his job was nasty and dangerous one.
Amy Callahan is eager and energized to grow Callahan’s Run, and to continue to honor her husband’s service and sacrifice.
And, Amy Callahan does not believe that honoring this service and sacrifice need to be an ongoing exercise in grief. She doesn’t want this for her son, for herself, or for others who loved Sgt. William Callahan.
In remembering her husband, she thinks there is a big place to smile and laugh and enjoy the freedom that he helped preserve and protect.
“Bill didn’t serve in the Marine Corps for glory; he was humble – and sometimes the media reporting on the war bothered him,” said Amy. “He didn’t talk about politics – and, you know, he wouldn’t even tell me who he voted for for president. He believed in what he did, and was proud and honored to do it, and committed to it.
“Sometimes when I see people comment on Facebook, on maybe July 4, or around Memorial Day – about how we need to remember our soldiers as we are enjoying our cookouts, I do appreciate people writing this – but also I think, and Bill thought, that he served so people can enjoy freedom and these activities. So, people should have fun.”
A wise and gracious sentiment.
Daniel Allan Callahan – the son of Sgt. Bill Callahan and Amy Callahan – knows that his father is in Heaven. Yes he does
On Saturday afternoon, as the motorcycles moved over the street, as the laughter rose, as food and drinks were wholesomely consumed, as people talked with each other – as money was raised to help the wounded and their loved ones – a life and sacrifice were celebrated in a most precious and appropriate and enduring way.
And, Daniel, you just have to know that your dad up in Heaven. is happy and approving of all of it