As they crossed the finish line, Melissa Jasso, Marybeth Macias and Taylor Pelham ran hand-in-hand, arms held high. In Jasso’s right hand, she carried an American flag.

All three women lost brothers who were killed in combat. And on Sunday morning in Seattle, all three wore matching shirts representing “wear blue: run to remember,” because they were competing for a cause, honoring the memories of those they’ve lost and others who made the ultimate sacrifice by running in the Alaska Airlines Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon.

“The camaraderie, just everyone out here cheering everyone on, it was a big family,” said Jasso, who is from Texas. “We’re all here to support each other.”

As the three women traveled across the 26.2-mile course, they passed that American flag back and forth.

“When you hold a flag and you carry it 26.2 miles, whether you split it up or not, those whose names are on the back of your shirt, the fallen, they just push you along,” said Pelham, who is from Portland, OR. and ran to honor her brother, John. “The flag doesn’t seem heavy. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything in your hands, because they just take that weight. They lift you up and they push you out. wear blue: run to remember is just amazing. They’ve given us all opportunities to honor our fallen, giving us the grieving process we’ve needed.”

Jasso was running her first marathon, honoring her brother, Marine Corps Cpl. Nathaniel Aguirre, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.

By running, she wanted, “to personally grow in mental and physical strength, in closeness spiritually with my brother as I know long distance running was a hobby of his that I get to share with him even though he is no longer on this Earth with me.”

Macias, who is from Georgia, was running for her brother, USMC Captain Matthew Freeman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. She said Freeman made an impact on everyone who knew him. It was also her first marathon, a day that provided the opportunity to reflect on her brother and all of the “lives lost through selfless sacrifice.”

To be able to celebrate the memory of their brothers and to do it while competing together was a powerful experience for all three women.

“It’s just an honor, really,” Macias said. “It brings everyone together. It brings out the best in people.”