Family Finds Support in wear blue: run to remember
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Growing up, Lieutenant Junior Grade Andrew “AJay” Lorimer did everything. As a standout football player in high school, he’d peel his pads off at halftime, pick up his trombone, and march with the band. After halftime, the pads and helmet were back on, and he returned to the field. From sports to college-level courses, AJay was a dedicated kid.
“There were Friday nights where he’d be playing a [football] game,” says Rich Lorimer, AJay’s dad. “He’d get home at 10:30/11:00 o’clock at night — he’s hurting, he’s aching, he’s got some bruises — crawl in bed real quick and get up the next morning and be at school at 6 AM to get on the bus to go to a cross country meet and go out and run a 5K and do well! [He was a] hard-working guy, a really hard-working guy.”
Tragedy struck the Lorimers when Ajay died by suicide in 2021.
An avid runner, Lorimer found an immediate connection with wear blue: run to remember. Founded in 2010 to honor and remember the fallen US military members, the organization primarily focuses on running events and creating a supportive community for those who have lost loved ones in military service.
Hard Work Pays Off
Coming from generations of service members, AJay was always intrigued by the military. On a visit to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the Lorimer family toured the grounds and the surrounding area.
“My wife and I were kind of betting what it was going to be: either ‘I hate it, or this was amazing,’” Lorimer remembers. “And I asked [AJay], ‘Well, what do you think of it?'”
“This is where I want to go to school. This is it. This is the place,” he replied.
AJay was tireless. And his hard work paid off: he was accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering, AJay moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend the Nuclear Power School, where sailors learn to use the nuclear reactors that power submarines, taking courses in mathematics, nuclear physics, reactor principles, and more. After completing the rigorous program, AJay was stationed aboard the USS Indiana (SSN-789), a nuclear-powered submarine, as a reactor control assistant (RCA) in Groton, Connecticut.
Finding Community Through Grief
While AJay was aboard the USS Indiana, his family had no idea that their son was struggling with his mental health – and they never knew that he’d even contemplated suicide.
“One time he made a comment that he kind of [understood] why every year there was at least one or two [sailors that died by suicide],” remembers Lorimer. “An alarm bell went off and we talked about it a little bit. ‘Oh, no, no, I’m not gonna do anything like that’. But I just wish I would have pushed it further.”
On June 29, 2021, AJay died by suicide.
“I really kicked myself for not asking, for not probing a little bit more,” says Lorimer, “and digging a little bit deeper to see exactly — not that I’d been able to see exactly — what’s going on.”
According to Brown University research, 30,177 active-duty personnel and post-9/11 veterans have died by suicide, compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat since 2003.
“Just like if we break an arm, you go to the doctor. If things aren’t right up here, Lorimer says, gesturing to his head. “It’s okay to go to a doctor. It’s not weak. When you ask for help, you’re strong.”
Our mental health deserves the same attention and care as our physical health. Neither one should be prioritized over the other, as both are essential for well-being.
Running to Remember
In the years since AJay’s passing, the Lorimer family found genuine camaraderie and support with wear blue.
“They have been so incredibly amazing,” Lorimer says of wear blue. “Some of those people have really gotten to be like family to me.”
Wear blue organizes events honoring fallen service members. These events give people a new way to remember the sacrifice made by the fallen and offer support to their families. The organization aims to create a meaningful experience connecting participants with the fallen heroes’ stories and memories. It was also one of the winners of the 2023 Bob Woodruff Foundation Event Contest, receiving $50,000 to host an event supporting service members, veterans, and their families and communities.
Since connecting with wear blue, the Lorimers have volunteered for several events, most recently in Phoenix, Arizona.
“The act is simple — to remember. The power is that we do it together,” says Lisa Hallet, president and co-founder of wear blue. “There’s not a day that goes by that our service members, veterans, and families of the fallen do not think about the friends and family that they’ve lost in battle. This Memorial Day, we help carry the weight of remembrance. We ensure that our heroes are never forgotten and that no one remembers alone.”
Wear blue invites all of us to join them this Memorial Day for their run to remember, honoring more than 65,000 fallen service members. It’s free to join in-person or virtually, and after registering, you will receive a Hero Match — the name of a fallen service member in whose honor you’ll run.