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St. Louis Runner to Honor Fallen Serviceman by Running 13 Marathons in 13 Months

The U.S. military prides itself on developing people who are dedicated, persistent and loyal to their country and to each other. When airman Kaitlin Baird of St. Louis learned of the death of Sergeant David Drakulich while preparing for her personal challenge to run a marathon, she decided she wanted to do more than just accomplish her own personal goal – she wanted it to have meaning for others as well.

Although Kaitlin never met David, the common bond they shared DJD Logo Hi Res FINALof serving their country connected them. “When you’re deployed, you’re all on the same team, we’re there together,” Baird says.

While serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2008, David’s life was cut short, at the age of 22, when he was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED). He left behind not only loving family and friends but also a legacy of over 300 works of art.

David Drakulich was drawn to art at an early age, experimenting with drawing, painting and sculpture before finding the medium he truly loved – painting. In his work he explored what it is to be human as he focused on the human form, emotions, religious beliefs, and language.

To honor David, his family and friends created the David J. Drakulich Art Foundation For Freedom of Expression in 2010. The vision “Art Heals War Wounds” guides the foundation’s mission of helping veterans, active service members and their families deal with the pain of war.

When a friend of Kaitlin’s, whose husband served with David, told her of his story, she felt compelled to honor him. “You gain a lot of family members when you deploy,” she explains.

While visiting the foundation, watching art being created on “combat paper” made a lasting impression on Kaitlin. In this process, military uniforms are cut up and made into paper, and then works of art are created on it– taking something that may associate negatively with and turning it into something beautiful and positive.

Baird’s goal of running one marathon then grew into a new goal that will push her to her limits. To honor David and raise awareness of the David J. Drakulich Foundation, Baird has set out to run 13 marathons in 13 months. “That’s my ultimate goal, to raise awareness of the foundation.”

Kaitlin will begin and end her journey in St. Louis. The Rock n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon on October 19 is the first of 13 marathons that Kaitlin will run over the next 13 months. She knows that the more than 18 months of training will be tough, but the inspiration to honor a fallen serviceman and help others deal with the tragedies of war keep her going. “If there’s something that we’re running for, it keeps us motivated.”

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