On Nov 11, 2008, I was heading out for my daily afternoon run. I was building my base for training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. I ate my pre-run snack of whole wheat bread and peanut butter about 90 min before I left. I laced up my Mizuno Wave Alchemy sneakers. I turned on my Garmin. It sounds like what I do before most long runs. But that’s where the similarities end.
I was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was almost finished with my 12th month on a 15 month deployment. Although the end was in sight, it was an extremely hard time for me and most of the other soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division. We were approaching the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and what would be the 2nd holiday season in a row that we would be away from our family and loved ones.
Three years ago, I didn’t get to pick out my running clothes – I had to wear the issued physical training (PT) shorts and shirt every day. I couldn’t run with my IPOD. I couldn’t zone out during my run (I often ran along the inner perimeter of the base and there was always a chance of an indirect fire attack). I couldn’t wear my hair in a ponytail (had to be in a bun). I couldn’t relax after runs – I had to shower and rush back to my desk where I was working 15+ hour days. I didn’t have a day off for 15 months. I couldn’t go back to my room at the end of the day and have complete privacy (I shared a 10×10 trailer with Becky, another female Captain – thankfully, she was awesome!!).
I’m not writing this to gain sympathy or for readers to feel sorry for me. I have never second-guessed my decision to attend West Point and serve in the US Army. It was a wonderful 10 years of my life. But, I often lose sight of what’s occurring on the other side of the world and what thousands of Americans are going through right now - just so we can have complete freedom.
And although my conditions may sound rough, I had it easy compared to what others are experiencing. I was able to shower every day. I had air-conditioning and heat. I ate my meals in a dining facility. I was on the largest base in Iraq so there was plenty of space for me to run outside instead of being forced to run on a treadmill – or even worse – not be able to run at all because there is no gym. There are many who had (and still have) it MUCH WORSE.
I often forget what it’s like to be deployed, to be away from my family, and to not have the freedom to do things that are often taken for granted. Today, I thank all those who have served – especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. And a special thank you to those that continue to put their lives in danger.
By your sacrifice each and every day, you are allowing me to RUN FREE!!
Some of the views on my long runs…
|Meeting my niece, Natalie, for the 1st time|