Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Whether soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman, any member of the armed forces must be prepared to be placed in harm’s way at any time or place.
It is unfortunate — but inevitable — that some will suffer physical and emotional injury as a result of their willingness to serve their country.
While the United States government is committed to providing care for those injured in the line of duty, both on the battlefield and upon their return home, their needs go beyond what is government issue.
That is why the Wounded Warriors Project (WWR) came to be and why this year’s local commemoration of Veterans Day will benefit that project by adding a Wounded Warrior 5k Run to the list of activities.
“Whether you run or walk, you can come on out to the inaugural Wounded Warrior benefit run,” said Mary Carpenter, who works for First Volunteer Bank and is coordinating the 5K race and 1-mile walk. “This is a very special race to honor one of our own, Jason Smith, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan.”
According to a Department of Defense news release, Smith, an infantryman, was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team when he stepped on a pressure plate IED this July 25 in Afghanistan, resulting in his combat injuries. A 2004 Ringgold High School graduate, Spc. Smith’s injuries included fractures to both hands and led to the amputation of both legs below the knee.
Earlier this month, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Smith and other patients at the Center for the Intrepid and San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.
While there, the admiral presented Smith a Purple Heart medal and spoke words of praise for the young man’s courage, dedication and sacrifice made to defend the nation.
“We are going to take care of them [wounded warriors] for many decades to come,” Winnefeld said.
Larry Smith, a lieutenant with the Catoosa County Fire Department, said his son Jason is lucky to be alive, is healing up quite well, has “very high” spirits and soon will be fitted for his first prosthetic device.
“I spent 30 years in the military and came out unscathed, Jason joined about four years ago,” he said. “We hope to see him in December, but he might surprise us and show up before then.”
The elder Smith said the WWP race is “an event I’d rather not have,” but he is thankful for the program.
The goal of the Wounded Warrior Project is to provide additional support to military service members who incurred service-connected wounds, injuries or illnesses on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as their families.
Catoosa County usually honors its veterans on Nov. 11, the original date for Armistice Day and what is now recognized as Veterans Day. But because the 11th falls on Sunday this year, officials decided on Saturday, Nov. 3 to schedule Veterans Day activities.
The WWP run is a new addition to the annual ceremony which usually includes naming of the Veteran of the Year for Catoosa and for Walker counties as well as the Citizen of the Year for each county.
The benefit run is being coordinated by Catoosa County Commission Chairman Keith Greene, a retired U.S. Army officer who was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds he received while serving in Iraq during the winter of 2004.
“This is important to me,” Greene said of the benefit. “I wanted to do this.”
Concessions will be available and musical entertainment will be provided by the Nathan Farrow and Brody Johnson bands throughout the morning.
All activities will take place at the Northwest Georgia Bank Amphitheater except for a dedication service for an entire set of new flags that will be installed at the Veterans Memorial located at the entrance to the Benton Place Campus.
Registration for the run starts at 8 a.m. the day of the event at The Colonnade, or can be completed online at the Chattanooga Track Club’s website or on Active.com.
The 5k race and 1-mile walk will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by Veterans Day activities scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. All activities are expected to be concluded shortly after noon, according to Yvonne Morgan, coordinator of the Catoosa and Walker County Veteran’s Awards & Citizen’s Awards Program.
Anyone with questions about the run can email Mary.Carpenter@firstvolunteer.com or call her at 706-965-1508.