SULTAN — Dave Sivewright is running for freedom, one star-spangled step at a time.
The Army Sgt. 1st Class often can be seen loping through the Skykomish Valley in uniform carrying a large American flag.
Cars honk as they speed past. People shout, wave and salute in solidarity. The 53-year-old keeps going.
Sivewright is on a mission to share his patriotic pride with each stride.
The soldier holds a five-pound flag as he canters half a dozen miles down U.S. 2. He runs in his camo battalion uniform and combat boots despite pouring rain or blazing sun.
Sivewright lives in Sultan with his fiancee, Christina Nelson, a career coach for WorkSource in Monroe.
“I appreciate that he’s got American pride,” Nelson, 48, said.
Together the couple is raising five teenage boys. They got engaged on Christmas Day after taking a circuitous route to romance.
Sivewright met Nelson online while he was deployed in Kuwait last year.
She had an idea to help ease his homesickness.
Nelson started sending him daily photos of people from all walks of life holding a sign that read: “Good Morning Dave.” She would email up to 30 photos of various people she enlisted in a particular day, such as the Pepsi guy, a rock band or the high school choir.
After five months of exchanging messages and photos every morning, they arranged to meet for the first time.
“I chickened out,” Nelson said.
She stood him up. And Sivewright returned home to Salt Lake City.
About a month later, the military reassigned him to Marysville. He mustered the courage to ask Nelson out again.
“We clicked and it was freaking awesome,” Sivewright said.
“We haven’t been apart much since,” she added.
A month later, Sivewright began bringing Old Glory along for his U.S. 2. runs.
It was the Fourth of July.
He started running in 2010 to get in shape for his Army physical. He decided to add the stars and stripes to his training routine not long after.
With the country mired in recession, Sivewright said, he could feel people becoming increasingly frustrated with their government. The flag is a symbol of the nation’s freedom and prosperity.
“I hate running,” he said with a laugh. “The flag is my motivation because it motivates others.”
After several overseas tours in 17 years of military service, Sivewright said, he’s realized how fortunate he is to live in America.
He now has logged nearly 3,000 miles under his flag.
Sivewright runs six to 12 miles in each stint. He usually goes out three times a week in the winter and every other day during the summer.
Nelson supports his cause by taking photos and posting them on Facebook. The page now has more than 1,230 likes.
“I was surprised to see how many kids were digging my 53-year-old boyfriend running with the flag,” Nelson said with a laugh. “People say kids today don’t have respect. That’s just not true.”
Through Facebook, the couple has reached people all over the U.S. and in other countries including Australia, China and Russia. They use the page to celebrate those who have served by featuring people like Art King, a Startup man who makes walking sticks to honor veterans.
“We’re spreading Sky Valley pride all over,” Nelson said. “I feel like it was there the whole time. Dave’s just a conduit of it.”
Sivewright is using his small-town celebrity status to promote local causes and support other veterans.
During the holiday season, he helped his church raise money to send more than 800 Christmas packages to children overseas. He sells his freedom-runner bumper stickers for $3 to raise money for the Sultan food bank. So far, he has more than $300 in the bank for that cause.
Sivewright is often invited to speak at celebrations for area veterans or participate in events. He is becoming so well-known he can barely leave home without people coming up to thank him for his service.
Sivewright has no plans to slack off from his running regimen any time soon. He does it as much for himself as for others.
“It’s brought back the patriotism,” he said. “Even if it’s just for a second, it changes from being stuck in traffic to that American pride.”
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.