Monday, November 11, 2013

With Gratitude

Today is Veteran's Day. And while I'm not a flag-waving patriot by any stretch of the imagination, I honor those who serve and who have served in our military to keep us safe, as well as to protect ordinary citizens overseas. While I vehemently disagree with the politicians who send our soldiers into war, I support those who serve.

Yesterday, the running club I belong to hosted a 10K trail race to support Boulder Crest, a retreat center for wounded warriors and their families. All proceeds benefitted Boulder Crest and through generous sponsorship from local corporations and members of the community, we raised $25,000.00. This year, the speaker was a man who survived an IED detonating within two feet of him. He was blinded one side of his body, and the opposite doesn't work like it should. He said that his recovery was (and is) extremely stressful. He spends about 12 hours most days going to doctor and physical therapy appointments. The living conditions are crowded and are usually small apartments to house the soldier and his family. To be able to get away to Boulder Crest is so very important to the recovery process.

The director of Boulder Crest also spoke. He mentioned some of the special programs they have, like equine and falconry therapy. My ears perked up at the mention of falconry therapy and I need to learn more. I also would like to investigate how I could personally help at Boulder Crest (given my lack of falconry experience). So there's at least one email in the future and hopefully I'll be able to put my talents (whatever they may be) to good use.

I ran sweep again this race day, or rather walked it, since there was one walker. I and my partner sweepers kept a respectful distance from her, since we were there to ensure that no one got off course or to help anyone who might be injured. In hindsight, though, I think it might have been best if one of us walked with her.

She was a woman in indeterminate age. She could have been older than me, or she could have been younger. She was certainly less fit. The race course is not all that technical; there are some rocks and roots, a couple of stream crossings, and at least one somewhat steep hill. Compared to the Appalachian Trail and the Massanutten Mountain Trail, it's a walk in the park. Compared to the suburban walking trails, it's intense. And this woman did her walking on suburban trails.

She had a bit of pluck, and she also knew when she had had enough (although the point at which she dropped out was the easier part of the course). She was amazed at the number of rocks that Virginia had (clearly she had never been on the Appalachian Trail or the Massanutten Mountain Trail). She didn't know how to cross streams and didn't know how to navigate down a steep hill. Once I realized that the course was a challenge for her, I kept a close watch and when I saw her stop to try to figure out what to do, I'd run forward to assist her, often taking her hand and talking her through the stream crossing or down a hill.

She threw in the towel at mile 4; she had had enough. I admire her for going as far as she did, without complaining. I'm amazed that she didn't know how to cross a stream or walk down a steep hill. I admire her courage for trying, and once into the race, for not blasting the race organizers for false advertising.

And I am so very grateful to my father for taking us on camping vacations every year (even though I was jealous of my friends who got to stay in hotels with swimming pools). I learned more than I thought I did and out of those trips grew a deep appreciation for nature. I'm also grateful for this body of mine for its strength and agility. I did not appreciate my ability until watching and helping the walker yesterday. To her, I offer my gratitude.

And to the soldiers of this country, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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