Police officer Donald Sahota’s memory was a huge part of the Appletree Marathon earlier this month
For Bret Olson, it was an opportunity to do something to honor his friend, his fellow officer, at least one more time.
For Holly Musser, it was one more way to connect with each other, be there for each other during the grieving process.
And for all the Vancouver Police Department officers who ran for Donald Sahota, and all those who supported the run, it was one more moment to celebrate Don.
Sahota was killed in January, the first in-the-line-of-duty death in the department’s history.
Earlier this month, many of his friends ran a half marathon in his memory, while others teamed up to run a relay for a full marathon, wearing full police gear.
This was a special Appletree Marathon for the law enforcement community.
For the relay, the officers handed off a baton to each other, a baton specifically made for Sahota. Notches on the left side of the baton showcased his personal life. There were notches for Don, for his faith, for his family. On the right side, his professional life, with notches for Don the police officer, his faith, and his law enforcement family.
“We carried him for the full marathon and brought him home to the finish,” Olson said.
The runners who competed in the half marathon joined the relay officers at the end of the marathon, to cross the finish line together. The relay members all wore the same bib number — 1531 — Sahota’s Professional Service Number, or badge number.
Musser and the half-marathon runners ran in bright green PAL shirts that showcased Sahota’s End of Watch date on their shoulders.
After the races, officers gathered for photos. Musser said she was struck by all the smiles.
“It was hard to smile for a while, until we were able to do things we knew would bring a smile to his face,” Musser said.
“I know he would have been proud of us,” Musser added. “That’s the guy he is, always wanting to see people succeed. For us, it was about connecting and just bonding and helping each other through whatever stage of grief that we are in. That, to me, is what mattered.”
The baton will be presented to Sahota’s family members. Musser said it is a keepsake that tells them that their law enforcement family has not forgotten.
Olson has added tattoos to his right arm, the thin blue line with the names of Jeremy Brown of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, and Sahota. Brown died in the line of duty in July of 2021. Sahota died six months later. Olson spoke to Brown the morning that he died. And he visited Sahota often.
Officers understand the risk in their jobs, but the deaths of Brown and Sahota hit hard, Olson said.
“It was never close to home or personal. Brown made it personal,” Olson said. “Six months later, Don made it even more personal. That’s someone I see here all the time.”
Police and sheriff’s office employees are still coming to terms with the tragic events. They are finding ways to remember, and carry on the mission.
“It was a tremendous tragedy. I was honored to be able to escort him to the ME’s office,” Olson said, referring to the police escort for Sahota to the medical examiner. “I wanted to do one final escort for him through this marathon relay, with the baton symbolizing him.”
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