Sunday, September 23, 2012
On a very rainy morning on Sunday, September 16th, 2012, I was honored to volunteer and be a part of the San Antonio Wounded Warrior Project 8K road race. From what I heard, the event has raised over $95,000 for WWP from participants in last Sunday’s race.
It’s been almost a year from finishing the 2011 NYC Marathon, and life has continued to run in its usual face pace: A new job, a new place to live, and a continuing deep appreciation for what our troops and their families have sacrificed for us and our country.
Over the past several months, there have been debates, speeches, and a no shortage of opinions on what we should be doing as a nation and who should be leading it. So, it was refreshing to break away from the in-your-face campaigning going on around the internet and television and focus, for a morning, on our troops and their families.
On this particular morning, it was cool, slightly drizzly, but the atmosphere was full of excitement and joy. All the volunteers were pumped to take part in the event as much as the runners were enthusiastic to complete the nearly 5 mile run, in which would become a down pouring of rain for the entire duration of the race.
But on this day, it wasn’t a race like most races. This race was full of love and contentment, just to show pride and support for our servicemen and women, especially those who have been injured since September 11, 2001.
On this day, I volunteered to help direct the runners along the race course. By the time the runners passed my point on the course, I was drenched from head to toe, but it didn’t matter. The runners started passing by, soaking wet, but smiling and chugging along through the heavy rain and deep puddles of water.
I had my camera on me, and started snapping shots of the participants, when one trio had caught my attention. It was a woman pushing a stroller, and a man walking the course with an amputated leg.
They were several minutes behind the last of the pack, but trucking through the bad weather, and determined to complete the entire course.
After the last of the race entrants had passed my point on the course, I jogged over to the 3 mile mark, not wanting to be done for the day. So, I took out my camera, and started snapping photos again. Here came the trio including the lady, child in stroller, and wounded veteran passing me by again. There was a look on this man’s face that made me want to stand through the rain and see him make it to the finish.
So I went over to the last water station and waited. The race had pretty much dissolved by this time. The weather, was for the most part, pretty nasty and it was impossible to stay dry anywhere. So, when this trio passed me by for the last time, I asked if I could finish the race with them. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to come across sympathetic, rather inspired. I introduced myself, and found out the trio was mom, Suzi, younger son in stroller, and grown son, Chris, who was injured in Afghanistan. Along the route, I stopped and gave Chris a hug. It’s my instinct, when I am standing next to a brave man or woman that has bravely served our country. Chris is 23, and may enroll at the University of Texas after he is discharged from the Army. His mother is still serving, as an active Texas Guard member of the U.S. Army. We chatted all the way to the finish, and as Chris and Suzi crossed the line, I could feel the pride of a mother toward her son, and I am pretty sure Chris was just as pleased to finish an 8k course, hiding any pain he may have been in from a drenched prosthetic attached to his right leg. However, the most inspiring thing for me on this day was not focusing on a soldier with an obvious injury, rather the guts and strength Chris has to continue to live a full life.
We plan to keep in touch, and I look forward to building a friendship, that might have never formed, had I not stuck around. The Wounded Warrior Project has given me some of my proudest moments in life, and I hope to jump on board to more events happening in Central Texas in the near future.
Also proud to say, I wasn’t the only one from my work to participate. My boss, Tom was a volunteer, and Patrick, a co-worker from the San Antonio office, ran the race and raised funds for WWP. He has also served in the military.
As I was driving back up to Austin, I was thinking how these types of events are great for any company to jump on board, from volunteering to fundraising. If we all did one or two events a year, it adds up to a lot of volunteer support, and a lot of donations.