GIG HARBOR, WA, UNITED STATES
GIG HARBOR, Wash. – Breath control, steady pace, motivation and time put into training were all coming into play for Command Sgt. Maj. Luis Rivera, 23rd Chemical Battalion. His vision was blurry, some fatigue set in, but a pair of Seattle Seahawks cheerleaders greeted him, and as he ran past, they continued to shout encouragement.
One last mile to go; there was nothing left to it but to finish strong. Moments later, he rounded the corner and crossed the half-marathon finish line. He removed the protective mask he was wearing the whole time, one designed to keep him alive in a hazardous chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear environment – yet notoriously uncomfortable to run in.
Cool morning air washed over his face, and with the mask off, he took a moment to notice the cheers, the applause, see the respecting nods from his fellow Soldiers. A good workout for a good cause so all in all, it was a morning well spent.
More than 1,400 walkers and runners, including soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, participated in the “Race For a Soldier,” Sept. 23. Participants signed on for either a 13.1 mile half marathon or a two-mile run. Children also participate in a “dash for kids.” Several runners chose to run in costumes – camouflaged ballet tutus, flight suits, old desert camouflage uniforms, all in the spirit of celebrating those who serve in the military.
“This is more than a run through the scenic Pacific Northwest. This is a race run for hope, for support and a better future for the men and women that serve our country,” said Leslie Mayne, founder of Race For a Soldier.
Mayne organized the first race after she lost her son, Pfc. Kyle Farr. On March 7, 2009, Mayne said that she learned that Kyle had overmedicated in a Baltimore hotel room. After Iraq, Farr suffered from nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder.
Mayne wanted to start an organization to help soldiers and believes a caring community can make a difference. She took the PTSD acronym and named her foundation to give it a different meaning.
“The Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation knows that our Soldiers need our help and believes we can change the tide. Communities can make a difference,” Mayne said. “The ‘Race For A Soldier’ half-marathon is our anchor of hope, our way to show support and raise awareness and a chance to raise valuable funds that will ensure more soldiers get the help they need before it's too late.”
Mayne added that “Race For a Soldier” supports alternative therapies for service members returning home, most of which are not funded by the U.S. government or branches of service.
Several Soldiers from the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, partner unit to the Gig Harbor community that hosts the run, were eager to support the event as both staff and participants.
“The event is for such a great cause, and raised about $44,000 last year. We’re definitely excited to be a part of it,” said Maj. Joseph Liebner, fire support officer, 201st BfSB.
Josh Klimek crossed the half marathon finish line first, with a time of one hour, eleven minutes, 50 seconds. “It’s such a great feeling, and a personal best time for me,” said Klimek, a Lacey, Wash. native.
The second runner in was Tomokazu Tsubouchi, a sergeant with the 3rd Regimental Combat Team of the Japanese Ground Defense Force. Tsubouchi and 15 others from his unit took the opportunity to run in the event during a break as their annual U.S. training exercise, Rising Thunder, came to a close.
“When you support this race - whether you run, walk, volunteer, donate, simply watch or all of the above - you are making a difference in the lives of our brave soldiers and their families. You are showing your support and your belief, making this a brighter future for all soldiers, their families and our community,” said Mayne.
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This work, Soldiers run in support of treatment for PTSD, by SSG Mark Miranda, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.