This past weekend marked the second Team Red, White, Blue event I've been fortunate enough to be apart of over the last 30 days by joining 300 "Eagles", as we fondly call ourselves, in Washington DC to speak at the RWB dinner the night before the 41st Marine Corps Marathon. Normally I do not get a chance to share my story about significant events that have influenced my life, so when RWB called I was honored to accept their invitation. The Marine Corps Marathon has a proud tradition and is now one of the largest marathons in the country with some 28,000+ runners pinning their hopes and dreams on their two legs for 26.2 miles around the DC area. What made this weekend unique was the fact that MCM had been my second marathon way back in 1982, when there was only 9,000 runners and entry was set at just $10! In 1982 I was still in the Army and now, 34 years later, I am affiliated with a great organization that is enriching veterans lives across the country.
I never really quite know what will come out of my mouth when I begin speaking. I know WHAT I want to talk about but no amount of rehearsing ever makes it sound the way I want it to. On that Saturday night I focused on love, compassion, perseverance and gratitude. These were 4 emotions that I experienced on the road during Project America Run...."Love" was a mother from Alabama driving 29 hours to see her son's flag placed. "Compassion" was a young 14 year old girl with a prosthetic leg who visits other Vet amputees in hospitals to make them smile and motivate them to live life. "Perseverance" was a young boy born handicapped with bad legs who overcame adversity and obstacles to run twice across the country. Finally, "Gratitude" was a gift from an 88 year old Vet. A bottle of sand. It was a gift that I often share with people. On this night I handed out small, clear packets containing grains of that sand to 13 people. My friend, the gift giver, had been 1st wave Iwo Jima. He was 18 years old and survived without a scratch. The sand was from the beach.....blood, sweat, tears from a place that was the inspiration for the finish line of the marathon the next day. The Iwo Jima Memorial.
The memorials that we Eagles ran by are some of the most visible landmarks in our country. The Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln Memorials. The Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. The Martin Luther King Memorial, Korea and WWII Memorials, and the Vietnam Wall. Humbled by the presence of such landmarks and humbled by fellow RWB members whose stories and lives are more interesting than mine, I could only absorb what I saw in every eye that night and everybody out on the marathon course as many Eagles finished their first marathon. Love. Compassion. Perseverance. Gratitude.
If we can manage to have those 4 things each day in our life, then we can continue to enrich the lives of those around us and our inspiration can motivate others to reach higher.
Oh, and last Sunday, 34 years later, I finished my second Marine Corps Marathon.