A 12-year-old Florida boy, Zechariah Cartledge, has gained national attention for his determination to run a mile in honor of every fallen first responder he becomes aware of. On Aug. 31, he carried a Red Line Flag and ran in tribute to the late Wasilla fireman Justin Hansen.

Zechariah Cartledge runs on Aug. 31 in honor of fallen Mat-Su fireman Justin Hansen.

Hansen served as an engineer for the Central Mat-Su Fire Department in Wasilla. He died on June 27 following a 24-hour shift in which he responded to multiple medical calls, a structural fire and a wildfire. He was 37 years old and an eight-year veteran of the fire department. He died of a heart related issue shortly after returning home from his shift.

Cartledge’s tribute to Hansen was the 998 time he’s taken to the track to honor a fallen first responder. Before the run, he addressed Hansen’s family and fellow firefighters.

“We do know he left behind a loving family and many people at the department,” Cartledge said. “Before the run starts, I’m going to do a quick prayer in honor of his whole family and the department and the hard time they are going through, and then I’ll be on my way.”

Cartledge ran seven laps around his school holding aloft a Red Line Flag. He was joined by his little sister and followed by a police car from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. After the run, Cartledge said a few words about Hansen.

Justin Hansen died on June 27 following a 24-hour shift serving with the Mat-Su Central Fire Department in Wasilla.

“He was an amazing man – one who deeply loved and served his community,” he said. “I will never ever forget him and the amazing sacrifices he did during his life.” Cartledge then offered another prayer for the family and loved ones Hansen left behind.

Cartledge sent the flag and a handwritten note to Hansen’s family, as he does for every fallen first responder. He said Cartledge was the first person he has run for who came from Alaska.

According to Cartledge’s Running 4 Heroes website, he began running at age 10 for fallen heroes in 2019 to “honor those who gave up their life so we may live in a better world.” Running 4 Heroes aims to raise funds for injured first responders and to pay tribute to those who die protecting others. Each month the mission donates a minimum of $10,000 to a first responder injured in the line of duty. In 2021, Running 4 Heroes plans to donate no less than $120,000.

Cartledge has 315,500 followers on Facebook, and the videos of his runs typically have more than 10,000 views. As of Sept. 3, more than 15,000 people have viewed the run honoring Hansen.

Florida boy runs a mile in honor of fallen Mat-Su fireman

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Jen says:

    When these good-hearted events happen, the family must had alerted the media. That is the only way they known while people run every single day and for unknown reason to witnesseses. If it was me, I’d just gone for my memorial run, quietly, and all by myself without having alerted any media or any person about my good deed. Hahaha.
    I am always like how do the media know!? Are their reporters stalking us? That’s ridiculous. Most likely they were alerted. There are God-driven awesome interventions happening every single day to peoples carried out by other people that go unreported, which we don’t need the report how good someone else was to you. Often times the server they were only carrying out a task laid upon their heart, and that was all it was to then another mission to be completed, nothing out of the ordinary. They would be just completing a task assignment.

    • Elizabeth Henry says:

      Maybe it did start out as such (a personal commitment with no audience) and then grew into something. It sounds like there are a few goals that benefit from public awareness. Remembering the sacrifices of first responders, and raising funds to help families thar have lost a first responder family member. Both merit some publicity. I am amazed someone this young could stick with such a commitment.

  • Barb says:

    I think it’s wonderful that this young man does this for the fallen heroes who serve communities across America.
    It’s a good reminder for all of us to think about and appreciate those who have served and are currently serving their communities and fellow citizens.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Good for him
    God protect this young man through out his life

  • Andy says:

    God bless this young man.