News: Run brings sense of home to Guantanamo
Story by Sgt. Kenneth Tucceri
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Though deployed Service members of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and Joint Task Force Guantanamo are away from home for months at a time, that doesn't prevent a part of home from coming down to GTMO.
For the Massachusetts National Guard's 747th Military Police Company, what could be more iconic than a home plate from Boston’s legendary Fenway Park?
The plate was brought down as part of the Run to Home Base Shadow Run Saturday, July 19 that took the participants from GTMO's Cooper Field Sports Complex, around the hilly roads here and back to the softball field, where they rounded the bases and finished at Fenway's own home plate, similar to Boston's Run to Home Base that has taken place annually since 2009.
The 9k run, which was organized by Army Capt. Tyler Field, commander of the 747th based out of Ware, Massachusetts, was intended to give the runners a similar experience to those running in the Boston race. It was even held on the same day at the same time.
"We set up a shadow run of the Run to Home Base that is being held in Boston … We tried to start the race off at the same time as the one in Boston," said Field.
In setting up the run here, Field was able to bring an event that had a tone of home for his company and create awareness for the charity aspect of Boston's Run to Home Base for the rest of the participants.
"My company is from Massachusetts," said Field, a native of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. "We are from the Massachusetts National Guard. So the fact that it has a Red Sox theme to it, I kind of wanted to do it for the company, but as well I wanted to generate awareness for the Home Base Program that helps veterans back home dealing with things like PTSD and TBI. Home Base Program works with Mass. General Hospital back in Massachusetts and the Red Sox Foundation, which is a charitable organization with the Boston Red Sox. They generate revenue to do treatment and research for TBI and PTSD for veterans."
Encouraged by her peers, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Natasha Ortega, a JTF Sailor, said the run marked her first road race. With the Boston run's charity focus, it made for a fitting experience that coincided with her civilian life.
"I'm a trauma nurse at home, and I deal with a lot of patients with TBIs," said Ortega. "A lot of patients come in from a car accident but have PTSD from a long time ago. So their former PTSD comes into play whenever they are in a traumatic situation, so I experience at home on a daily basis of what it entails."
Though Red Sox shirts and hats were easy to spot, as many of Massachusetts’ 747th didn't miss the opportunity to place their foot on a home plate sent from iconic Fenway Park, many others deployed here came out to celebrate the cause.
Of the almost 100 participants, there were seven Soldiers from 346th MP Company, an Army Reserve unit out of Fort Riley, Kansas.
“The fact that they actually got a home plate from Fenway Park in Boston, that's cool," said Army Sgt. Gerry Perzee, a Soldier with the 346th. "Especially with the all the stuff that's been happening in Boston like the bombing with the Boston Marathon, even after that, the following year, everyone was still there doing it. Even the ones that were injured with their prosthetics were still running. That puts a lot of emphasis on that now. And now you got this and that's putting emphasis towards the Soldiers, the Sailors, the Airmen, the Marines and the Coastguardsmen."
For Army Staff Sgt. Robert Kopytko, a Soldier from the 747th and a Leicester, Massachusetts native, running in this race was a once in a lifetime opportunity when considering the presence of the home plate and the race’s cause.
"The Red Sox are the champions, and the United States Army are champions, and I think we are all one team, one fight," said Kopytko. "It's just a good thing Capt. Field put this together, and the Red Sox, what they do for the community … we all miss home, and hopefully the Red Sox win another World Series."
With the Red Sox on a recent hot streak and only seven and a half games back in their division as of July 21, it's tough to completely rule out that prospect for Boston's die-hard fans for this year. They certainly have their supporters in GTMO.
The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program helps Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families heal from PTSD and TBIs. To learn more about the program, visit their website: www.homebaseprogram.org.