Keesler runs to make 'Oklahoma Strong'

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's a simple phrase: Oklahoma Strong. For the men and women of Keesler Air Force Base, it means so much more. They have spent the past few weeks raising more than $10,000 to help the victims of the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma one month ago. Friday, that effort culminated with a 5K run on the base, raising even more money.

"It's nice to have the country rally around you, supporting you because of all the devastation that you've seen there," said senior airman Ariel Penny.

For some, like Tech Sgt. Lewis Strong, this race was a family affair.

"We always try and support any event that we can. And being from north Arkansas, I know how devastating tornados are, and we just try and volunteer as a family to give back to the community any way we can," Strong said.

Helping the Oklahoma tornado victims is a personal mission for a few of the runners, like Staff Sgt. Jovanni Owens.

"It definitely hits home. I am from Oklahoma and it was a definite team effort from all individuals from the base, so it was a good opportunity to get involved and I'm really glad to be here."

Just a few months ago, Keesler Air Force Base was named the best base in the country. Of course, that made the commander very proud. But efforts like this make him even more proud.

"This is why we're the best base in the Air Force," said Brigadier General Brad Spacy.  "You don't even have to ask people to do this. They come up with it on their own. It's not me saying it. It's them coming out of the crowds and saying, 'I want to do something good.' I mean, that's hard to capture, but we love it."

Doing something, anything, was the driving force behind this effort for Tech Sgt. Stephanie Horn.

"I think that anytime there's a need for help in the nation, it's your responsibility to not just sit around and do nothing. There's too many people in need," Horn said.

Once all the money is collected on the base, it will be sent to agencies in Oklahoma helping with recovery efforts in that state.

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