WASHINGTON, October 5, 2013 — At 7:45 am on a warm Saturday morning, as congressmen slept in their beds and furloughed government employees dreamed of a spending bill, Frank Burns and his son, Cormac, made their way to the starting line. All around them runners stretched and began to warm-up. Some took a last minute sip of water. Some fixed their prosthetic legs.
Burns, an active duty serviceman, and his son joined over 900 other local runners, athletes, veterans, current servicemen, and Wounded Warriors to run in the third ever McLean 5k Run with the Warriors at McLean Square on October 5.
“It was good,” Burns said. “A lot of people that you serve with in the box, as it were, we saw them and what they’ve gone through and what they’ve sacrificed. This is a part of giving back and remembering them today.”
The event, which began as two separate races until 2012, raises funds for the Wounded Warrior Transitional Housing program at Vinson Hall through the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation. The program provides transitional housing for active duty soldiers discharged from inpatient care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
“We’re trying to give them a place to call home while they’re here and in limbo between being fully discharged or fully medically retired,” race spokeswoman Brandyi Phillips said. “As we all know, the rent here in this area is not the cheapest, so we’re just trying to give them a place as a thank you for their service.”
In fact, the first ever Wounded Warrior to move into transitional housing at Vinson Hall took part in this year’s 5k. He joined almost 1000 local supporters of the cause, ranging from 5 year olds to 92 year olds, professionals to current marines to men with just one leg. Or no legs, as was the case for Rob Jones, the event’s keynote speaker. Jones, a combat engineer in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost both his legs in 2010 while searching for IEDs.
“I used my foot instead,” he said to those who stayed after the race.
Jones, who later became a bronze medalist in rowing at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, thanked the crowd for their support for transitional housing.
“Nobody really ever expects to get hurt when they go to Afghanistan,” he said. “Obviously you know it’s possible, but nobody ever really expects it to happen and it’s a really difficult thing for both the service member and their family. They have to basically uproot themselves from where they live and come here, and they already have so much to worry about… so having one less thing to think about is a huge help.”
Those who ran alongside Jones and other wounded warriors marveled at the opportunity to support the troops. Those supporters included the Langley High School wrestling team who delighted spectators and athletes alike by carrying a large American flag throughout the entire race. When asked about their 5k, all nine Saxon wrestlers clamored to say how ‘awesome,’ ‘amazing,’ and ‘inspirational’ the wounded warriors were.
“There were plenty of amputees finishing before us,” one wrestler named Jacob said. “They’re really tough.”
As of Saturday, Wounded Warriors Transitional Housing had raised $625,000 from registration fees, donations, and events like the McLean 5k. Phillips mentioned that the project has a ways to go though, as the money is split between paying $575,000 for each fully furnished, wheel-chair accessible apartment and subsidizing the rent. But for those who raced, raising money to make life easier for the wounded warriors is worth it.
“It’s good to see them living life,” runner Emily Smith said. “I hope that these organizations continue, and that the community becomes more aware of the sacrifices these guys make.”
For more information or to donate to Wounded Warrior Transitional Housing at Vinson Hall, or the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation, please visit their website: www.vinsonhall.org/foundation/about-us/programs.
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