A Motivating 5k – The Wounded Hero 5k
On June 14, 2014, I had the honor of participating in the Wounded Hero 5k in Warminster, PA. Was it the best organized 5k? No. Did it have the best bling, best food & drinks or best after run events? No. But was it one of the most inspiring and motivational 5k’s – or for that matter races of any length – I have ever participated in? Yes!
Prior to the race the Wounded Hero 5K committee organized a brief motorcade that included a number of wounded veterans and others that had served in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Gulf Wars. They also had a speaker, Marine Corporal Tyler Southern, who had lost both legs above the knee, his right arm above the elbow, and shattered his left hand and arm after stepping on an IED while serving in Afghanistan in 2006. He shared a bit about his story, but focused more on what he had to celebrate, the honor of serving our country, and the needs of other vets. He used his amazing positive spirit to motivate his fellow service men and women, and to educate the civilians in attendance on the ways to overcome and adapt to life’s challenges.
Cpl Southern then took his place in his wheelchair at the front of the 5k, that started and ended on an out and back course under one of the largest American flags I have ever seen (after all, it was Flag Day.) In addition to Cpl Southern and hundreds of runners, in the race were vets, ROTC and other military personnel. Some were in fatigues, others in combat gear, others ran with 50lb rucks on their backs, others carried the American flag the entire race, and several others completed the race with prosthetic limbs or in wheelchairs. I am not a vet but side by side we all ran to raise support for Operation Ward 57, a non-profit that helps provide needed support services for vets, soldiers returning from action, and their families.
After the race and prior to the awards ceremony we heard from Staff Sergeant Ian Newland. SSG Newland had been injured in Baghdad and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disease (PTSD), a disease common to many vets who have experienced combat duty. He told the story of his hero, Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis, who was his gunner in a Humvee in 2006. While patrolling the streets of Baghdad an enemy fighter threw a hand grenade in their Humvee. SPC McGinnis, only 19 at the time, sacrificed his own life by jumping on the grenade to save the lives of SSG Newland and the 3 other soldiers in the Humvee. Though injured from the attack, SSG Newland healed and returned wondering why SPC McGinnis and others were lost while he was spared. But through counseling and support from programs like Operation Ward 57, he has come through, is doing well, and is now an avid public speaker and supporter of many wounded warrior and veteran’s programs across the U.S.
Finally, the ceremony paid special tribute to fallen hero and Medal of Honor recipient Spc. Ross McGinnis. A special recognition was presented to his parents, as well as a moment to celebrate his birthday, June 14th. He would have been 27 today.
While not everyone will agree with military action or the U.S.’s role in the Middle East and other areas, one thing we can all agree on is the respect and support those who have and continue to serve our country deserve. Many give years of their lives away from family and friends, and many sacrifice more in traumatic stress, physical injuries and even death.
I originally choose to run in The Wounded Hero 5k, partly to support a good cause, but mainly for the purpose of trying to achieve a PR. However, I left the day with much to reflect on, a new respect for those who serve our country, and a desire to continue to support the Wounded Hero 5k (and others like it) in the future. A race for a cause, a race for a charity in need, but most importantly a race organized and led by hero’s, designed to honor hero’s, and to raise funds to support their fellow hero’s.
What race has motivated you, not in terms of running, but in terms of the cause it supports? Share your stories and we will post some on the web. Thanks for reading.