Emma Arbanas

An Air Force cadet is taking on a huge challenge to honor her fallen brothers and sisters in arms this Memorial Day.

U.S. Air Force Academy cadet Emma Arbanas planned to run in the Academy's Falcon 50 race at the end of April, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Arbanas' family said she is not the type to back down from a challenge. At 6 a.m. on Memorial Day, she started running her own 50-mile race starting at the Riverfront Park clock tower.

Her family was there for her along the way. Her sister Anne Arbanas matched speed with her for about 32 miles of the grueling journey along the Centennial Trail from Washington to Idaho.

She gave me a motivational speech," Emma Arbanas said. "A really bad one," Anne Arbanas added.

Their parents, Kevin and Kalee Arbanas, set up checkpoints along the way with Emma's name, drinks and a plush falcon. Fifty miles and nine hours later, she said she has some amazing memories with family that she will cherish forever.

She also has an even deeper appreciation for what Memorial Day means and the people who gave everything to make opportunities like this possible.

"There was a lot of hard work [and] effort put out today, but I know that drawing that inspiration from the people who have given their lives for this country... that's nothing in comparison," Emma Arbanas said. "Getting to do my race today of all days, it was really fitting. I just enjoyed it so much because it made me feel a little more connected."

Emma Arbanas has several family members in the military and is eager to carry on the tradition, whether in pre-med or the cockpit of an airplane. To everyone with family or friends who have sacrificed their lives for their country, the Arbanas family says, "thank you."