Been a long time since I've posted a diary here.
The place is looking really, really good! For those of you who don't know or remember me, I was a pretty active member here from 2004-2008. With the energetic support of dKos' milfamilies, veterans and concerned civilian members, I embarked on what became a five year effort to raise awareness of and help returning troops coping with PTSD. [See pics.]
Busier than I'd ever been before in my life, I pumped all of my energies into what became a top-rated niche blog (recently retired) and a book called Moving a Nation to Care (reviewed here at Daily Kos by SusanG). I even testified in Washington, D.C., as a witness for the U.S. Congress' House Veterans Affairs Committee.
I kind of felt like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 2, but without her pink panache.
Today, I'd like to introduce members of the Military Community to Richard H., an Air Force veteran and runner-on-a-mission that I've had the pleasure to get to know over at dailymile (an online community much like dKos, but focused on exercise not politics).
I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard on his military service, his love of running, and how he's found a novel and inspiring way to blend the two passions of his life. Chosen to be "dailymiler of the week," I wanted to share him with you here as well.
As I'm the author of the piece, I'd like to share a nice long excerpt from our interview:
Sometimes lacing up is an act of personal pleasure. We pound the pavement or kick up speed on a dusty trail, mile after mile, out of a desire to improve our experiences in life. Or maybe we’re working on our weight, attitude, energy or general health in some way. Other times, we jettison the solitary focus on ourselves, dig deep and expand the meaning and reach of our endeavors. Legendary track and field coach, WWII veteran and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman once said, "The real purpose of running isn't to win a race; it's to test the limits of the human heart." Since November 2010, Richard H. has been the embodiment of the Bowerman quote every time he’s laced up and headed out for a run.
Ilona M: I’ve been following your progress for a while now, but you’ve been chipping away at this thing you call the 30/30 Challenge for some 20 weeks now. Can you explain what you’re doing?
Richard H.: Well, I just like to be reminded and remind others a tiny bit about some of the sacrifices others went and are going through to make us ‘comfortable’ in our daily lives. This 30/30 Challenge started between my buddy Derek S., who lives in Cleveland, and me just looking for a way to motivate each other to take our running to the next level. The challenge is that I make an attempt to run at least 30 miles per week for 30 consecutive weeks. It began on November 1, 2010, and is set to end on the day before Memorial Day: May 29, 2011. After completing my first run, I called Derek and told him that we needed something more. While I was motivated to complete this just to prove to him that I could, I didn’t think that was going to be enough to get through 30 weeks. I thought that if there was a way to dedicate each successful week to a military hero that would be even greater motivation. And so it began!
IM: Do you have a military background yourself, Richard?
RH: Well, I had no real familiarity with the military growing up. I had a grandfather who served in the Navy before he was married and had kids and an uncle who served four years in the Air Force before I can remember. I have a cousin who served ten years as an Army Airborne Ranger that I’ve always been pretty close to. I’ve always had a curiosity and deep level of interest in what it would take to be in the military and defend our country. But, through high school and into college, I suppressed the urge. I met my wife, Nicole, in college and we married after graduation. After finding random, low paying, frustrating, unfulfilling jobs in the business world, I went to Nicole one day and said, “I think we should consider signing up for the Air Force." Surprisingly, she was completely on board!
IM: You enlisted in the summer of 2003, and your first three years were spent serving in Washington, D.C., first as as a member of the Air Force Honor Guard performing full honor funerals in Arlington National Cemetery and later as a member of a small joint service team at the Pentagon. Your service took you around the world to Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. In November of 2007, you transitioned from active duty airman to a position in contracting for the Air Force as a civil servant, which you’re still doing now for the Air Force Academy. How did all of this inspire your world view and, more specifically, set you on the path of your personal 30/30 Challenge?
RH: It forged an incredible amount of appreciation for and desire to spread the stories of the military heroes of our history, the ultimate sacrifices being born on the battle fields right now, and the men and women in uniform right here within our borders doing the necessary jobs to keep us secure. This is what motivates me to get out of my office and go run and compete 30 miles each week for 30 consecutive weeks. If Marcus Lutrell can take on multiple gunshot wounds, lose three Navy Seal comrades and still crawl for several days through the mountains of Afghanistan then I can get out there and complete my next run, no matter how much I don’t feel like it! That’s what motivates me to complete this challenge. The desire for longevity in order to be around for many years with my amazing wife and three perfect kids…that’s what motivates me to run. ...
IM: What have you learned about running, and about yourself, through this experience?
RH: Running: I've simply gained an even deeper passion for it! About myself: I've learned that I hadn't ‘dug’ into some of my past experiences. I never really understood the impact working in Arlington National Cemetery every day for nearly a year had on me until I started thinking more about the ultimate sacrifice some of these guys paid. I knew that, but I didn't really KNOW that. Doing the dedications every week on dailymile causes me to think about why his/her story matters to me and what it might mean to whoever reads my posts. That forced me to reflect deeper into what I had experienced in paying honor to those I buried in Arlington. I was fortunate to be able to be so intimately involved in the military funerals of people whose story I'll never know. This challenge, and the stories I’m sharing, have caused that past experience to now have a greater impact on myself – and hopefully what I’m doing can help others, too.
IM: The quote I opened our interview with is from the late Bill Bowerman. Known more for being the co-founder of Nike, an avid runner and successful running coach, he also served his country during WWII. Enlisting after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bowerman is credited with negotiating a stand-down of German forces at Brenner Pass just prior to the surrender of the German army in Italy. He received a Silver Star, a Good Conduct Medal and four Bronze Stars for his efforts. What do you think about this?
RH: The biggest thing about him that stands out to me and stirs the deepest sentiments of respect and honor is the apparent heart of this hero. Much like Pat Tillman, he answered the call at a time his country needed him. Even more impressive for both of these guys? It obviously would have been the easier choice to continue living the comfortable, successful lives they were leading. Married with two kids, teaching and coaching; yet Bowerman answered the greater call. I think every runner – whether they know it or not – benefits from the impact Bill Bowerman went on to have on our sport.
Want to learn more about Richard? Please read the rest of the piece.