Running with a purpose

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DAV’s 2016 5K race series debuts in three new cities

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Recruits from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police Academy run in formation to honor veterans during the first DAV 5K in Boston. The race began with 300 Marines leading the pack of participants out of Fort Independence—an old base controlled by the British during the Revolutionary War.

In 2016, more than 8,300 people took part in the DAV 5K series, and they did so for various reasons—some to dedicate the race to family members who served and others to simply show the support the community has for its veterans.

In Tulsa, Okla., Army Reservist Philip Rule was running with a heavy heart to honor a fallen friend and soldier.

“First, I’m running for all disabled and fallen heroes that sacrificed their life and time for the United States of America,” said Rule. “Second, to remind people that there are many disabilities and struggles veterans face from war that are not seen on the surface. Three months ago, I had a friend and soldier that recently left the Army Reserve from my unit in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who committed suicide at 27 years old. I want to run and stand for those brothers- and sisters-in-arms who cannot.”

After the race, Rule and other veteran participants had the opportunity to take the Spartan Pledge, written by Iraq War veteran Boone Cutler, which promises a commitment to support one another in the fight against veteran suicide.

They made their pledge over a Spartan sword forged from 25 pounds of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the Twin Towers in New York City. The sword, on loan from the New York Fire Department, has made its way around the nation as a symbol through which veterans collectively promise not to take their own lives.

“It is very unique,” said DAV Department of Oklahoma Adjutant Danny Oliver. “There’s only one of them in the world, and it was right here at the Guthrie Green with us at the 5K.”

This year, in addition to Cincinnati and Atlanta, the race extended its reach to include Boston, center stage of the American Revolution; Newport News, Va., the epicenter of East Coast military activity; and Tulsa, deep in the heartland of America.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our five host cities,” said DAV National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “By adding Atlanta last year and by expanding to Boston, Newport News and Tulsa this year, it highlights the success of the original host city, Cincinnati, and displays how eager people are throughout this nation to support veterans. And our goal is to continue engaging the communities we serve while bringing veterans’ issues front and center.”

Host cities Atlanta, Cincinnati and Tulsa kicked off the five-race series Nov. 5. Boston followed on Nov. 12, and Newport News sounded the final starting gun Nov. 13.

“It was an awesome course, and we had a ton of support out there,” said Maria Hopkins, an Iraq War veteran and Cincinnati 5K participant. “I might be out of shape, but I feel great.”

While Hopkins appreciated the support along the course, she understands the larger picture surrounding the DAV 5K series.

“I think it is of the utmost importance to have an organization like DAV bring this sort of awareness to veteran causes,” Hopkins said. “It is uplifting to me and helps me regain normalcy. I had my own issues when I got out of the military and it took me years to adapt. It shows you how big the veteran community is in your own area, as most don’t know it.”

DAV Department of Massachusetts Adjutant Dan Stack agreed, noting events like these help highlight the no-cost help DAV provides to veterans who may otherwise not know where to turn for assistance.

“Massachusetts was excited to host the DAV 5K and see all the publicity in Boston, that ultimately helps get the word out there about our organization,” Stack said.

“I’m just now learning about the DAV 5K, and I look forward to doing what I can to support its cause,” said Bernard Thomas, a Navy veteran and Atlanta 5K participant. “I will spread the word to others in my area about this great cause, and I look forward to helping in any way I can. I believe it will be another way to bring attention to those who have proudly and honorably served our nation.”

The inaugural 5K events in Newport News and Tulsa were led by DAV National Commander Dave Riley, a quadruple amputee, who started both races on his adaptive bike.

“When I woke up a quadruple amputee, I felt like my entire life was over,” said Riley. “Everything I knew was gone. I never would have guessed that I’d be able to participate in an event like this—more or less lead it off—so I’m extremely proud to have been with the people in Newport News and Tulsa who are helping us create new possibilities for veterans by participating in this event and paying it forward.”

“I would like to thank all the individuals who made this year’s 5K series a success,” said Burgess. “No matter what city you took part in and no matter the role you played, thank you. I sincerely look forward to this event continuing to grow and reach more communities, and we owe it all to you—the participants.”

 

Learn more online

For more information on the DAV 5K series, please visit dav5k.org.

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