Tanner Higgins memorial run moves downtown

  • Tanner Stone Higgins/ Courtesy Tanner Stone Higgins Military Memorial Fund
    Tanner Stone Higgins/ Courtesy Tanner Stone Higgins Military Memorial Fund
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Organizers want more community involvement

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The Tanner Higgins Warrior Run is getting a new location this year, and its organizers are excited to celebrate Tanner’s life with the community that loved him.

The Warrior Run was created to honor the memory of Sgt. Tanner Stone Higgins, 23, who was killed on April 14, 2012 in Logar Province, Afghanistan by enemy forces during a heavy firefight. Higgins was a Team Leader for 1/75th Ranger Regiment, Delta Company.

In 2020, the race will be transformed from a 5-mile trail race at Cooper Lake to a more traditional 5k in downtown Sulphur Springs. Money raised from registrations benefits the Tanner Higgins Military Memorial Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to offering financial and social support for veterans, Gold Star families, wounded warriors, transitioning soldiers and active-duty military. It also provides monetary awards to selected area high school seniors who have enlisted in the armed forces, according to the fund.

Registration is $30 prior to race day and $40 on race day, although according to president Ryan Horne, those who do not wish to participate in the run can still show their support by attending.

“It’s a small, homegrown event, but we’re trying to move it towards a big event and get the town involved,” Horne said. “Sulphur Springs has been such good partners.”

A high point for Horne and Tanner’s mother Patti Sells will be the attendance of one of Tanner’s namesake babies. There are now 19 such children spread out across the U.S., and Sells has presented each with a teddy bear made of Tanner’s uniform. In fact, one of Tanner’s namesakes lives in Hopkins County. Hopkins County Sheriff ’s Deputy Zach Horne used Tanner’s middle name when naming his son.

To Sells and Horne, it’s important every year they remember Tanner’s life and legacy when they lace up their running shoes and take to the course.

“He was above average, to say the least,” Horne remembered.

As Tanner’s older cousin, he said he watched him grow from a kid with a strong sense of right and wrong into a young man with Christian values and a sense of duty to his country and family.

“When he became this military warrior, all of a sudden - I know he was my little cousin, but now he could whup me!” Horne fondly recalled.

This year’s slogan that will appear on t-shirts for the Warrior Run is one of Tanner’s fond sayings, “I’ll take the paddle.” It refers to Tanner’s willingness to stand up for what he felt was right, Horne said. Horne recalled a memory from Tanner’s youth that illustrated the saying: he was a teen while Tanner wasn’t more than six years of age. Horne drove his younger cousins around in a golf cart at the family property, and after excessive speed and a sudden stop by Horne, Tanner was thrown suddenly from the golf cart.

“Everyone was hollering at me to be careful because I had the little ones on there, whipping that golf cart around,” Horne remembered. “Here come the parents, running across the pasture and they were fixing to get onto me. Tanner jumped up and he’s taking up for me, telling them ‘Oh, it was my fault!’

“That’s how it has always been,” Horne recalled about Tanner. “He was going to take care of everyone around him.”

In 2007 before he deployed, Tanner gave an interview to the News-Telegram.

“What could be better than serving your country?” he asked.

Those interested in sponsoring the event may mail a check to P.O. Box 777, Sulphur Springs TX 75428. The 8th annual Sgt. Tanner Stone Higgins Warrior Run begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 11 at Celebration Plaza in downtown Sulphur Springs.

Managing editor Jillian Smith contributed to this report.