SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Service members from Joint Task Force-Bravo and the Honduran Air Force Academy participated in the 2nd Annual JTF-Bravo Wounded Warrior Project 24-hour relay April 4-5, 2014 at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
Nineteen teams consisting of 4, 6, 8 or 12 members ran or walked almost 2,180 miles to remember their injured brothers and sisters in service and to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. A total of $6,000 has been raised by this event so far with more funds expected to be received.
During the opening ceremonies, U.S. Army Col. Thomas Boccardi, Joint Task Force-Bravo commander, shared an emotional story how two of his troops in Iraq were wounded in 2009, how it still affects him today and how the Wounded Warrior Project is a worthwhile cause.
"This is a noble cause that tries to integrate the wounded warriors back into society with many different programs and things like prosthetics. These men and women are worthy of this cause."
More than 210 service members took turns fighting the searing heat and sun during the day and exhaustion and sleepiness at night. Some turned it up a notch in how they paid homage to the wounded warriors. The Soto Cano Fire Department team suited up in their fire fighting gear to show respect to those who have been injured.
"We walked in our bucket gear to honor the ones that have fallen," said U.S. Air Force fire fighter Senior Airman Steven Vandenburgh. "They were wearing their gear when they went down so us wearing our gear is our memento to them."
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rolando Rivera donned a Captain America costume while running in the event.
"Last night while talking to my nephew back home I told him I would be running in the Wounded Warrior Relay and I asked him what I should wear. He said that they just finished watching the Captain America movie so can you wear a Captain America costume and I said sure. I think it is a great way to honor the wounded warriors."
Even though the Honduran Air Force members just learned about the Wounded Warrior Project, they already feel the bond that only a fellow service member can understand. They want the wounded warriors to know that they have their full support.
"This is a very noble cause that supports the wounded warriors and with every step I take, I think about the soldiers and their efforts, their sacrifice, and all the help they need," said Renan Ramirez Mejia, a Honduras Air Force third year cadet. "They need our support and perhaps they'll know about Honduran cadets and officers participating in the wounded warrior project and that will motivate them, make them feel better; because not everything is healed with medicines and surgery."
Planning an event of this magnitude personified a true team effort from all organizations at Soto Cano. A lot of coordination occurred between U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. select David Haynes, 612th Air Base Squadron first sergeant and the coordinator of the Wounded Warrior 24-Hour Relay, numerous volunteers, JTF-Bravo Medical Element, the Army Support Activity's Family Morale Welfare and Recreation, the Honduran Air Force Academy (so cadets could participate), and many others to make this event a success. The Army Support Activity, Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Family Morale Welfare and Recreation, and Lempira Tours all gave donations to support the event.
The Joint Task Force-Bravo 24-hour relay was born from someone who wanted to make a difference and assist his fellow wounded warriors.
"Technical Sgt Joe Daly, a former member of the 612th Air Base Squadron, wanted to do something big for the WWP organization so he set up the inaugural event last April," said Haynes. "He asked me if I would carry the torch this year so I did. Several of us have wounded warriors in our families so it hits close to home. Plus, we like being a part of something bigger than ourselves."
In his closing remarks, Boccardi drew from the Soldier's Creed to drive home the point that not a single wounded warrior will be forgotten.
"We will never leave a fallen comrade; this is what we pride ourselves on. We care for our own, no matter what. The average person getting a latte at Starbucks, doesn't understand what it takes to endure the unendurable, doesn't know how to share sacrifice, doesn't know what it's like to belong to something bigger than themselves. When a 6- or 12-person team comes together, they're going to run and share the sacrifice."
The Wounded Warrior Project serves over 50,000 veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.