Living in a "military" town sheds a different light on the way one looks at the military, the war, family, and life. I have become acutely aware of the trials these families face and while some people can turn a blind eye to the situation overseas, military life can be an eye opener for others. Yesterday I had the privilege of running the Soldier Half Marathon in Fort Benning. It was an emotional, inspiring day and a great one to have the day after Veterans Day. I wasn't sure if I was going to run in it, deciding about two weeks ago to participate. Friday afternoon a friend and I made the trip to the army base so she could pick up her race packet and I could register.
Saturday morning was dark and unusually cold but packed with an uplifting, wonderfully energetic crowd. There were two races: a marathon (26.2 miles) and a half marathon (13.1 miles). The gun went off and the runners began to pound the pavement, running the first leg of the race through the army base and the rest along the river. I was able to race with runners who were missing limbs and racing in wheelchairs. There were racers that carried pictures of loved ones lost and messages of hope to inspire others. Soldiers lined the streets with cheers and good wishes. They worked aid stations and handed out drinks to the runners racing by.
New to the race this year was the Fallen Hero Program. Runners wore two race bibs: one on the front with their number on it and another on their back with the name of a fallen soldier. I watched a friend, whose husband is deployed, painstakingly decide who she should run in honor of having lost many friends in the war. It opened my eyes and made me realize how naive and fortunate I am to have lost no one to the fighting overseas. I ran in honor of Army Captain Orlando Bonilla, who was killed in a helicopter accident in Iraq in 2005. He was 27 years old and married to a woman who lost her father in Iraq the year before.
I stressed in the days leading to the race, not sure how I would run with such little training. When crossing the finish line I received congratulations from so many soldiers who told me what a wonderful job I did. Really? It is them we need to thank...always...
Have you thanked a soldier today?