Supporting the memory of an American hero

VERNON — “He is an American hero, having given the ultimate sacrifice for his county,” said my son, Robert Bonello. “I want to ensure that Mark Forester is never forgotten.” This is why he is going to Haleyville, Ala., to participate in the Mark Forester Foundation Fundraising Walk on May 19.

The walk is a continuous 31-mile trek in honor of Mark's 31st birthday, which is May 19. Each year, one mile is added to coincide with his birthday.

The foundation has created a scholarship in Mark's name, which is awarded annually to deserving students who exemplify the same character traits and patriotism that were the basis of Mark's life.

My son and Mark first met at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. They trained together for two years at Hurlburt Air Force Base in Florida, and their first deployment was to Afghanistan together. They became best friends and shared a lot of the same interests and values. Mark's parents, Pat and Ray Forester, became extended family to Robert.

On Sept. 30, 2010, I received a phone call from my son, who was in Afghanistan, with news that Mark was killed in action. Mark had been scheduled to come home that November. Robert was given the honor to escort Mark's body back home to Alabama.

Mark was a Mormon with great values, and he would give you the shirt off his back. He was one of the most courageous men I have ever met. This is why I am involved in raising money for his foundation.

I would also like to one day raise money for a statue to erect in his hometown in his honor.

My son is in Afghanistan on his third tour, but he will be back in time to join me to walk together in remembrance of our friend and brother Mark Forester.

If you would like to support this walk, tax-deductible donations can be made directly to the Mark A. Forester Foundation or by check sent to Mark's parents, at 171 Country Rd. 3401, Haleyville, AL 35565.

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