May 7, 2010

Guardsmen to run 21 marathons to save lives

BY WANDA CURTIS, Correspondent

Two local National Guard officers plan to run, as a team, 21 marathons in 21 days.

The purpose of the "resilience run" is to increase awareness of mental health and suicide issues among soldiers deployed from overseas and to promote the idea that fitness builds resiliency.

Each officer will run 13.1 miles per day for a total of 550.2 miles.

Col. Jack Mosher of Waterville and Maj. Jay Brock of Winslow are scheduled to leave Saturday from Kittery. They plan to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, for the annual ceremonies there.

The officers' course will take them to Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. They plan to visit veterans' medical centers along the way.

"We want to advocate the high quality of health care available to our veterans," Mosher said. "We want our fellow veterans to take advantage of the services offered as an excellent resource for treatment."

According to Mosher, the suicide rate among veterans is at an all-time high. "Every day, 18 veterans commit suicide," he said. "We lose more soldiers to suicide than to combat casualties ... Every suicide is just as lethal as a sniper's bullet."

According to Brock, many soldiers have difficulty adjusting when they return from overseas. He said running a marathon each day is symbolic of the marathons that some veterans face each day -- whether physical, emotional, or relationship issues.

"They're going from a very intense environment where their life may be on the line on a daily basis," Brock said. "Then they come back home and have to try to insert themselves back into their role of husband or father or wife after they've been gone for a year."

Both Mosher and Brock know what it's like to come home and try to fit back into family and society after having served overseas. Mosher served in Afghanistan and Brock served in Iraq.

"It's tough," Brock said, explaining that life goes on without soldiers while they're gone. He added that they can't go back and replace times lost with their families like holidays and baseball games and other personal events.

Mosher explained that he and Brock are running as a team to demonstrate the buddy system. They encourage veterans to reach out to someone when they need help.

"We don't leave soldiers behind on the battlefield and we shouldn't leave them alone in their living rooms, either," Mosher said, adding that veterans need to reach out to their spouses, their parents, a friend from the military, or someone else when they need help.

Mosher encourages veterans to develop a warrior spirit and fight back against the darkness that seeks to engulf them by doing something to help themselves.

"Every veteran is precious and irreplaceable," Mosher said. "Each is a national treasure."

Brock and Mosher are asking veterans to set an example for all Americans by taking responsibility for their health as one step in fighting back. The officers realize that not everyone can run a 21-day marathon but they think everyone can do something to improve their mental, emotional, physical or spiritual health and they challenge all Americans, not just veterans, to do that.

"For some people just getting out of bed might be a victory," Mosher said. "Set a goal. Get out of bed at 7 a.m. Eat a good breakfast. Go for a walk. We should count and celebrate each victory."

Brock and Mosher have focused on healthy eating to prepare for the run. Mosher said he eats lean steaks and roast beef, lots of organic foods, and bananas for potassium. He also eats a bowl of ice cream every day to build up his body fat. "I'm a lean person," he said.

The two officers have been running 60 to 80 miles a week to prepare for the 21-day run, symbolic of a 21-gun salute. Mosher said he's cross-trained a lot, too. This week, they're resting.

"It's the calm before the storm," Mosher said.

Their progress can be followed at www.onelifewarrior.org.

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