Thursday, January 28, 2010

Needed: Names of 50 Wounded Warriors

Help me take the names of 50 Wounded Warriors across the finish line on March 27, 2010!
Leave your wounded warrior's name in the comments section of this blog!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mile Marker 1.5

Running is such a simple thing. Toddlers do it with complete abandon in the soft green grass of spring. Children run and chase each other, giving no thought to the required exertion, squealing with delight in games of tag. Running seems like such a simple function. At least, it should be simple. I see it all the time. Runners, gliding effortlessly down the street, floating past as their feet seem barely to touch the ground. Runners, all of them slender and leggy, their muscles defined and rippling with each stride. Despite my past experiences as an enthusiastic runner, sometimes when I see them now I growl, "Hmph. Show off." And, my dear husband, ever empathetic with my frustration, responds, "Forget that . . . do you ever see one of them smile?" He's convinced that running and smiling are incongruous.

Regardless, my scornful remarks are borne from jealousy, and I'm the first to say so. I recall vividly the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of empowerment that comes with covering mile after mile, fueled by nothing but determination. I recall falling asleep at night in excited anticipation of the next day's run. "No dead ends," I used to claim confidently, observing that with running as one's chosen method of fitness, there were very few obstacles in the way of success.

That was my perspective before a diagnosis of compartment syndrome and corrective surgery on both legs. It also was before cardiovascular surgery, and for sure, it was several years before reaching the age of 53. Now, I measure success in pain-free minutes, and progress in portions of a mile. I don't glide effortlessly, as the folks I watch seem to do. On the contrary, I pound, and every step seems to reverberate from my toes to my eyebrows.

Still, though progress is slow, though I am slow, I've been training for several weeks now. And, I'm happy to report that this week, I successfully managed 1.5 miles on the treadmill! It's not the golden 3.1, nor even 3 miles, but it IS half way! With any luck, I'll reach 2 miles by the end of January, then progress to training outside, where pounding away on the asphalt streets will present new challenges.

So, for all of our Wounded Warriors, though no one can ever fill their shoes, I'll run my next mile-and-a-half hoping for a fraction of the courage needed to wear them....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Freedom From Fear, Courtesy of Marissa Strock

This week's adventures in slogging began today at 4:30 a.m. The only thing I considered that might explode under my feet was a measure of energy and determination. I gave no thought to dodging land mines or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hidden along the path. I, and we, as citizens of the United States, are unrestrained as we meander about our communities, free from the daily fear of being maimed by exploding shrapnel. Yet, in a sad and ironic twist, though our soldiers fight to protect us from such horrors, many are called to duty and sacrifice in the face of those very same circumstances. Newsweek reported in August of 2007 that 50 soldiers a month were being killed or injured by IEDs.

So it was with Marissa Strock, whose unit had been assigned to locate a mass grave in Iraq. Her profile on the Wounded Warrior Project website explains, "As the unit traveled a dangerous stretch of road, insurgents triggered an IED right under Marissa’s vehicle. Three of the five people on board died, leaving Marissa and the interpreter as the only survivors. Marissa remembers screaming, but little else." Ultimately, Marissa lost both legs as a result of the attack. Her story of survival and courage is an incredible one. Read it here.

For you, Marissa, though no one could ever fill your shoes, I imagined borrowing them for a little while this morning. Thank you for your sacrifices ... and my freedoms.

* * *

Readers: Don't forget to comment here, listing the name of your Wounded Warrior, along with a positive note about how this person has influenced you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mile Marker: Wounded Warrior Project

First up in the line of events: The Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K Run in Virginia Beach on Saturday, March 27, 2010.

The race flyer states, "The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower wounded warriors by raising awareness and enlisting the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of severely injured service members." For more information or to donate, go to and click on the red "Donate Now" button.

I can't think of a better way to inaugurate these activities than to thank all of the veterans of our proud country's military services for the freedoms they help protect, and in this case, to express gratitude and support to those who have been severely injured in the course of their service to the United States.

For this cause, I will train for and participate in the race, write about my progress here, and post thoughts about the freedoms our "Wounded Warriors" protect.

I look forward to your responses, listing the name of a friend or loved one, your own "Wounded Warrior," who was severely injured in the course of service to our country, along with a note about the positive way in which this individual impacted your life.

Mile Marker: A Decision to Do

Eventually, all of us experience a moment of reckoning or revelation, wherein the result is a compelling, unavoidable need to do something more -- to do something good. For me, one such moment occurred on December 31, 2009, right around 2:30 in the afternoon.

It was a cold, brisk day in Norfolk, Virginia. I gripped the wheel of my car as I sat in a parking lot near a large hospital. I was giggling and giddy, light-headed with relief and excitement. All of my senses were keener than just a few hours before. The winter air smelled sweet and crisp, warm beams of sunlight shimmered through the windshield, and all about, despite the hospital setting, people bustled with energy and purpose. So intense was my excitement and relief, that I struggled to maintain composure, repeatedly whispering, "Thank you, God." I had been dealt another chance -- delivered from the depths of coronary artery disease. My cardiologist's glowing report was not what I had expected. After all, I spent the last two years or so being very practical and controlled, getting my personal affairs in order . . . getting ready for "the big one."

Over the next several days, I marveled over and over at the gift I'd been given. I considered this chance, this extra chance at life that I'd so feared would not come. Instead, I had an extra chance to do something that matters . . . but what? In whose shoes should I walk a mile to collect the enlightenment needed to make a difference?

It seems there are so many things that matter. It's always been torturous for me to decide how and where to give back in return for all of the blessings I've received in this life. If one is to embrace a cause, to devote precious time and energy in quantities that provoke change, how in the world does one choose between wiping out hunger or illiteracy, curing cancer or juvenile diabetes, increasing awareness for the prevention of child abuse or homelessness. . . or hundreds of other local, national and international needs and causes? In the end, I can't choose. Yet, there was a revelation contained within my reckoning. I don't have to choose. There is a method to devote time and energy in quantities that give back and provoke change for a number of things that matter.

For 2010, I vow to go a mile -- no, I vow to train and run (more accurately, jog or slog) 5K events for at least six different causes. This proposition may not sound like much to some, but now that I have fully recovered from surgeries on both of my legs and my heart, it will be quite an exhilarating experience for me.

As I select and identify each cause, I ask each reader to post here the name of an affected friend or loved one, along with a note about that person's positive impact in your life. Besides being tremendously inspirational, this will allow me to devote these running activities to the honor or memory of specific individuals. Each blog also will provide links or other information required for donating to the particular cause at hand, but there will be no obligation to do so, nor will I keep any accounting of that.

So, for all those who've done something good, whose honor, courage, perseverance, or kindness has left a positive mark on you -- though their shoes can never be filled, here's to the next mile in them!