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Runners Tackle Marine Corps Marathon to Support Troops

Samantha L. Quigley, American Forces Press Service

Some of the 18,281 participants in the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon cross the starting line Oct. 26, 2008. The marathon, which began in Arlington, Va., will have ripple effects around the world, as many runners participated to raise funds for troop-support groups. Photo courtesy of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2008 –

As they have for the past 32 years, nearly 20,000 runners gathered at the Marine Corps War Memorial here to tackle the 26.2 miles of the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 26.

Among the runners were many individuals and teams who participated as a show of support for servicemembers. Marie Campbell, who lost her husband in the 1996 attack on Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, ran as her way of helping the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

“I do this to give back to others who need grief and recovery support, so TAPS can continue to support the many surviving families who’ve lost someone serving in the military and are walking the road I once walked down,” she said. “TAPS helped me so much in those early years, and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon as part of my own healing.”

Campbell, director of the TAPS “Run and Remember Team,” ran her eighth Marine Corps Marathon this year. TAPS provides care for the families of America’s fallen servicemembers.

While many, if not all, of the participants who ran as part of a troop-support group’s team were running in support or memory of a loved one, they had another important purpose. They helped to raise funds that will be used to support servicemembers and their families. And not all of them were civilians.

(PhotoCaption)Katrina Wert, 16, right, poses a picture with Marie Campbell, founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Run and Remember Team after completing the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon, and her first, Oct. 26, 2008. Wert ran in memory of her father, Marine Master Sgt. Michael Wert. Campbell ran her 8th Marine Corps Marathon this year in memory of her husband, Dee "Soup" Campbell, who was killed in 1996 when terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Both ran as part of the TAPS Run and Remember Team. Photo courtesy of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

Two injured Marine veterans joined together to overcome their injuries, help each other make it across the finish line and help out MarineParents.com in the process.

Lance Cpl. Josef Lopez suffered a sudden illness while serving in Iraq in 2006 that left him paralyzed. He spent months recuperating in the hospital. On the day of the race, however, Lopez faced the challenging course with a customized hand cycle and the encouragement of Cpl. Neil Schalk. The corporal earned a Purple Heart after being injured by a homemade bomb while serving in Iraq in 2005.

The money the two veterans raised will support two outreach programs offered by MarineParents.com. Purple Heart Family Support and Operation PAL provide meals to patients and families at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., and “adopt” injured Marines, sending cards, letters and prayers.

MarineParents.com provides education and support for Marine Corps families, provides support for Marines, and provides community awareness programs for troop support.

Homes for Our Troops also had a 15-person team running to raise funds to build adapted houses to meet the needs of injured veterans.

“We had a couple of people from Massachusetts travel [to run in the marathon], and really, they’re just supportive of the mission … and they’re looking for a way to give back,” Dawn Teixeira, the organization’s vice president, said. “We raised about $20,000. It’ll go a long way toward something in one of the houses.”

As the race concluded less than three hours after it began, it was two first-time runners who took first place in the men’s and women’s open divisions.

Andrew Dumm, 23, of Washington, won the men’s race with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 42 seconds. He was recruited by his brother, an Air Force first lieutenant who won the armed forces division, but finished behind his younger brother.

Cate Fenster, the daughter of a former Army Ranger, won the women’s race with a time of 2:39:32. The 37-year-old teaches neurobiology and physiology at the College of Wooster in Ohio but is currently on assignment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

Members of the Team Marine Parents pose for a group photo before the start of the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 26, 2008. The group ran to honor of servicemembers and to raise money to support troops through MarineParents.com, which provides education and support for Marine Corps families and Marines, as well as providing community awareness programs for troop support. Photo courtesy of MarineParents.com

At the end of it all, however, the big winners were the troops who saw the support of the individual runners as well as that of the troop-support organizations.

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