Helping Works

Purple Heart trail run brings civilians, combat veterans together

Many kids dream about becoming a doctor, athlete or ballerina.

Aaron Butler wanted to become a soldier.

He enlisted in the Utah Army National Guard on April 10, 2008, while still in high school.

He began the Special Forces training program in 2014, and graduated with honors on Jan. 14, 2016.

And on Aug. 16, 2017, Aaron succumbed to injuries “suffered from an improvised explosive device while clearing a booby-trapped building” in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. He was 27.

Fearless, selfless, courageous and relentless are just a few words used by family and friends to describe Butler.

To honor him and all combat-wounded veterans, the SSG Aaron Butler Memorial Purple Heart Run was created by local Purple Heart recipients, including race director Dan Nelson, who was injured in the same sweep that killed Butler.

The inaugural trail run is set for Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Eagle Bike Park, 11800 Horseshoe Bend Way. Choose to run the 5k or 10k, both starting at 9 a.m.

Each course “will be lined with pictures and stories about Purple Heart recipients who gave their lives in the Global War on Terror (since 9/11/2001).”

After completing the route, head back to the park for an after-party featuring local beer, food, music, guest speakers, raffles and children’s activities.

Registration is $30.

More than just a race, the event is a celebration of sacrifice of “all U.S. service members who have given their lives or parts of themselves physically in combat operations around the globe.”

Proceeds will benefit the Idaho Department and Chief Joseph Chapter 509 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Get course details and sign up at For questions, email

Michelle Jenkins compiles event calendars, archives and writes a Helping Works column for the Idaho Statesman. She attended Boise State University and grew up in New Plymouth, Idaho.