JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD – Thousands participated in Seattle’s Rock 'N’ Roll Marathon on Saturday, each with their own individual goals. For a group of Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers, it was to bring awareness to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Five soldiers from Bravo Battery, 1-94 Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade and one soldier from the 7th Infantry Division, teamed up to participate in the half marathon. They ruck marched wearing 35 pounds and also WWP t-shirts, bracelets and stickers.
Founded in 2003, the WWP’s mission is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors through rehabilitative efforts which will make their transition to civilian life easier and more positive.
“I think in this war, while there were a lot of casualties, the biggest told was with the wounded soldiers. Participating in this event will definitely show the community that at JBLM we are united and we have not forgotten about our Soldiers that were wounded,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Castignanie, B Battery, 1-94, team planner. “Should you be wounded in combat, the Army doesn’t just write you a check and say goodbye. Your service members remember you, and you are always going to be in our thoughts. We’re always going to be there to support you.”
Castignanie, a 10-year soldier with multiple deployments to Iraq, said the event was also an important teaching opportunity.
“[This event] is important because it will help instill in that next generation of soldiers coming through the ranks pride in their fellow soldiers. When it comes to the senior ranks, the senior noncommissioned officers, we understand the sacrifices of junior Soldiers and we understand the sacrifices of Soldiers when they go to war and they are wounded or hurt. Doing an event like this really helps our junior soldiers realize it,” said Castingnanie. The idea to participate in the marathon began around Memorial Day as the soldiers discussed ways to meaningfully recognize the service of others.
The race was also an important chance to build cohesion as the unit prepares for an upcoming deployment.
“The streets of Seattle and 20,000 people, that’s something I was really looking forward to, every time I have done something similar, be it hiking or white water rafting, the participants came away with a story. It’s those stories you go back to, those stories you have a laugh over, when the times are not as fun,” said Lt. Randall Thomas, B Battery Executive Officer. “And anytime you can mix in exercise with something meaningful, different and fun, it’s going to be a plus.”
Volunteerism and community outreach is something Thomas always stresses to his soldiers. It is important, he said, to show them that it does make a real difference.
“We are usually very busy with our operational tempo and training, but when we can get away from work, and we do have that down time, it is really positive to get out into the community and let them know we are there, we are part of them,” said Thomas.
The team finished the race just shy of three hours. They hope the real win will be in the increased awareness of the WWP and other organizations which help wounded service members.