Soldiers Join Forces With Kansas City Runners to Help Brain Injury Victims
By Army Spc. Jason Jordan
Special to American Forces Press Service
KIRKUK, Iraq, May 29, 2008 On opposite sides of the globe, two groups of people in very different environments worked together to raise money for individuals suffering from brain injuries.
U.S. Army soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team and U.S. Air Force personnel and civilian contractors begin a two-mile charity Memorial Day run on Forward Operating Base Warrior in northeastern Iraq's Kirkuk region. The deployed Americans joined the 21st annual Amy Thompson Run to Daylight to help those suffering from brain injuries. U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Jason Jordan
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This Memorial Day, Army soldiers deployed here were joined by an army of volunteer citizens in Kansas City, Kan., and the two fought as one for their causes.
Soldiers with 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, joined the 21st Annual Amy Thompson Run to Daylight. The charity event consists of 2-mile and 8-kilometer events in Kansas City.
Amy Thompson was a 23-year-old college graduate enjoying her life as a third-grade teacher in Kansas City when she was shot twice in the head during an attempted robbery at a neighborhood party on Halloween night 1986. After awakening from a six-week coma, Thompson survived against terrible odds, struggling to resume life after a brain injury.
Although she fought valiantly for three years, Thompson died unexpectedly Christmas night 1989. On Memorial Day the previous year, a group of Thompson’s closest friends and family began the Run to Daylight in her name.
“When run officials in the states contacted us with their desire for us to participate in their charity event, we immediately discovered that our struggles were very much related,” said Army Capt. Peter Hofman, a chaplain with 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment. “We were very excited to participate in such a noble cause. And with Memorial Day upon us and the fact that servicemembers are suffering brain injuries in explosions, it just all fit. It made sense for us to join their cause.”
Hofman coordinated with Kansas City officials to help make the run possible for servicemembers in Iraq.
Run officials in Kansas City were clearly excited about the troop involvement, as well. Newspaper articles and a special on the nightly news segment announced the runners would be joined by servicemembers in Iraq this year.
“The original plan was to have the soldiers conduct the run at the same time as the Kansas City runners. But … that would be between 5 and 6 in the evening, which would make it somewhere around 110 degrees or higher in the desert,” Mary Thompson O’Connor, Amy’s sister and a run official, said on a special segment of Kansas City’s KMBC-TV news show.
To show their support for the soldiers on their Memorial Day run, the Kansas City runners wore T-shirts honoring those serving in combat. Run officials also sent flyers, official city run bibs and T-shirts to those who would be running in Iraq.
O’Connor also insisted on providing the battalion with $1,200 in Amazon.com gift cards to be awarded to the top three male and female runners in both the 2-mile and 8-kilometer events.
Airmen and civilian contractors serving with 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, soldiers ran along side the regiment.
“There was no shortage of volunteers willing to participate in such a good cause,” Hofman said. “The average maximum participation has been 100 people in past events on the base. We were delighted to inform those in Kansas City that 147 people showed up in the early morning hours to participate in the Amy Thompson run.”
“What better cause could you find for which to volunteer your time?” said 10th Brigade Support Battalion’s Spc. David Andrade, 1st place runner of the 2-mile event. “You are benefiting your body with exercise while participating in a good cause and honoring America’s servicemembers. And everyone could use an Amazon gift card.”
Both groups of runners on each side of the world held a moment of silence before their run, honoring servicemembers. The 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment soldiers spoke aloud the names of 11 members of 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, who were killed since their deployment began in September. A moment of silence followed each name.
(Army Spc. Jason Jordan serves with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.)