About 200 Richland county deputies and supporters started their 4th of July holiday Monday sweating and straining outside the Statehouse.
Their strenuous workout was the annual salute to one of their own killed in 2012 while on military duty in Afghanistan.
Many of those who took part consider it vital to commemorate Ryan Rawl even though they know him more by reputation than personally.
“I share a bond with him because he was a police officer,” sheriff’s investigator Aubree Taylor said.
Others said it’s important to remember soldiers who died protecting the nation, particularly on its birthday.
“All those who didn’t come home, those are true heroes,” sheriff’s Lt. Dominick Pagano said.
Rawl, a member of the South Carolina Army National Guard, was commanding a military police platoon operating a checkpoint when he and two others were killed by a suicide bomber.
He was a deputy for seven years who worked on patrol and as a school resource officer.
Rawl was known as a mentor who constantly looked out for the soldiers he led, friends say.
“He never ever quit,” sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Lindler said. “He was always thinking about everybody.”
The early morning workout included lugging weights and partners up and down Statehouse steps as well as traditional exercises such as push-ups, tossing a medicine ball and jogging around the building’s perimeter.
Participants paced themselves, but it took many no more than an hour to finish.
It’s more rigorous than what law enforcement officers commonly do to stay in shape but worth the extra effort, some of those taking part said.
“It’s not a piece of cake,” said Lindsay Rish of Chapin, who trains at the same gym that Rawl did. “But we come to honor him, someone who sacrificed his life for us.”
Proceeds from entry fees benefit scholarships in memory of Rawl.
His parents, who live near Pelion, thanked and encouraged participants.
“You can’t imagine what this means to our family,” his mother Diane said before the workout began. “We appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483