Annual poker run keeps son’s memory alive


Army Spc. Justin D. Coleman was afraid of being forgotten.

That sentiment, in fact, was the last post he made to his Facebook page.

Coleman was killed shortly after, on July 24, 2009, in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. The 21-year-old of Spring Hill, Fla., belonged to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, N.Y.

“He carried the SAW (M249 Squad Automatic Weapon),” said his mother Penny Coleman. “They went in and cleared out a village. He saw motion in a cornfield, drew his weapon and they fired on him.

“Hearing his gun fire saved the lives of the boys inside the building,” she said. “They were about to get ambushed.”

Coleman posthumously received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

In the years since his death, his parents vowed to keep his name alive. This month, they hope hundreds more will help fulfill that promise.

Sept. 16 the family will hold the Ride for the Fallen, Spc. Justin Coleman 8th Annual Memorial Run. The poker run will begin at American Legion Post 99 in Foley where participants will receive the first card of their hand.

Players will travel to River Pub in Bay Minette, American Legion Post 199 in Fairhope, Doc Holiday’s in Foley, Bama Buds Bar in Foley and receive a card at each location. The ride ends back at American Legion Post 99 where the best hand wins $100.

Cost is $10 per hand to play. Free biscuits and gravy are available at morning sign ups. The last hand will be dealt at 10 a.m. Participants will receive free burgers and hot dogs at Bama Buds Bar. All proceeds go to Racing 4 Vets, motorsports organization for injured military veterans.

At the starting point, there will also be face painting and kids’ activities, a car and crew from Racing 4 Vets and a raffle with hundreds of prizes. Raffle tickets can be purchased separate from a poker hand.

The Colemans started the race in Florida shortly after their son was killed. When Penny moved to Alabama two years ago, she began holding a race in Baldwin County.

“This is our way of making sure he is remembered,” she said.