Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finisher!

Evidence of a morning well-spent


Along with Melanie Grace (#21,223) and 35,000 of our "closest friends," I participated in the Army 10-Miler on Sunday, October 12th. This was my 7th running of the ATM and the 30th annual edition of the event. I have observed quite a change in the nature of the event over the years. 

When I first ran it in 2000, the race was like a party. People wore outlandish costumes. There were jugglers and acrobats and people playing instruments while they ran. The atmosphere was fun--even frolicsome.

The 2001 edition was canceled due to post-9/11 security concerns, although many people ran shadow events anyway. I formed a team of 6 runners from the Army M&RA and G-1--a group of people who suffered 20% casualties including 29 killed in action on 9/11. We had special t-shirts made with the names of our fallen comrades, and we collected pledge money for the Family Support Group.

After 9/11 and the 12 years of war that followed, the event has gotten more somber., with this edition being by far the most poignant. Instead of birthday cake hats, bare feet, and kazoos, I saw: 

  • people running in memory of someone who was lost, or in support of someone injured. 
  • a Gold Star mother running in memory of her son, SFC Bowen from Maryland Army National Guard. 
  • more hand bikers and wheelchair racers than ever before. 
  • two blind runners, with escort and guards, and t-shirts declaring that loss of sight is not loss of vision. 
  • a number people on prosthetic limbs. 
  • many people carrying Old Glory, or unit guidons, or banners depicting such things as Purple Heart medals 


I suppose the most touching moment came after mile nine when we passed a man on two prosthetic legs. His stumps were sore, and he had his arms around two other men who were helping to carry him across the finish line. I gotta tell ya, stuff like that just really tugs at your heart. 

After the race, the vendors included not just the typical Army recruiting tents, but tents for adaptive sports and tents recruiting people to join Red White and Blue, Ward 57, Wounded Warrior Project, and many more. Of course my brother (fighting brain cancer) was on my mind today. I was running for him and others who cannot.

It's not as if there was no joy or reward in the effort. Melanie and I started and finished the run side-by-side. After being brought to tears on more than one occasion over the 10 mile course, we crossed the finish line hand-in-hand, exuberant and joyful.

Bottom line, I am proud to be affiliated with Armed Forces Services Corporation, a corporation which values service and is the champion for Warriors, Veterans, and Families. As an AFSC employee, I am working for the DoD's Wounded Warrior Program, helping to make a difference in the lives of our wounded, ill, and injured Warriors from all services and components.