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Freedom and the American way of life is a wonderful thing wouldn’t you agree? However, do you take the time to understand how that freedom is achieved and protected? The United States Armed Forces are there every day fighting to protect our freedom and the American way of life. We are very fortunate to have this luxury and like anything else, this can come with sacrifices. The loss of life of our soldiers is tragic and sad and reminds us of how fragile life can be; freedom is never free.
Another side of war and combat that many do not understand or see are invisible wounds that many of our soldiers suffer from. On July 19, 2014, I participated in the 5th Annual Run to Home Base, which is managed by the Home Base Program. The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Home Base Program helps Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families heal from the invisible wounds of war—post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)—by providing world-class clinical care, community education, and research. These invisible wounds are estimated to affect one-in-three returning veterans, and can affect the entire family.
This was my first time participating in such an event, which was a 9K run with a shorter course for the walkers. A requirement to partake in the run is a guarantee to raise $750.00 with all proceeds going to the Home Base Program. This year, they announced they had almost 3,000 participants, which was the largest number they have ever had. The experience was amazing for me as I got to listen to many people speak of the difficulties our soldiers deal with once they come home and the issues they would have in getting the proper care. The Home Base Program operates one of the only private-sector clinics in the nation dedicated to healing the “invisible wounds” of war for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. Home Base is the first program of its kind, a philanthropic partnership between an Academic Medical Center and a Major League Baseball team, dedicated to serving returning veterans and their families.
As part of the event’s opening ceremonies, a mother was introduced and she spoke about her two sons who are soldiers as well as her son-in-law (all were there and running in the race as well). She spoke about how her youngest son had returned from combat and how he had “changed.” She spoke of the difficulties he was facing every day and how they felt they were “losing” their son. A family friend recommended he visit the Home Base Program and he met with one of the outreach staff who was a former soldier as well. She went on to say how the program has helped him turn the corner, how he will graduate from college soon with a degree in social work, and how he will be taking a job with the Home Base Program. She provided many details that had many in attendance in tears (myself included) as most cannot fathom these everyday things that this family and the soldier were dealing with. She ended by thanking the Home Base Program for “giving us our son back.” I decided at the conclusion of that speech that I would run this race every year that I am physically able, raise as much money as I can, and recruit others to create a “team” to run the race.
I will admit that for a large part of my life, the smallest things would upset me and get me stressed out; I have really worked hard over the last few years to change that and being involved in the Arpin Charitable Fund and many charitable events has gone a long way to helping me address these issues. I spent a lot of time that day listening and talking to people and learning about the struggles they face and all I could think of was the fact that these soldiers are putting their lives on the line so we can continue to live the lives we have grown accustomed to. It was truly a very life-changing day for me and I was honored to be a part of it. I know our country has become much better about thanking our soldiers and appreciating all that they do for us and for our country. Therefore, please bear in mind if you see a soldier or a veteran and you think everything looks “normal” with him/her remember these invisible wounds and that the soldier may be suffering inside. Be sure to thank him/her for their service, ask them how they are doing, and let them know how much we appreciate the sacrifices they make for all of us. And, if their family members are with them, thank them too as they also make sacrifices.
If you have an event like this taking place near you, I would strongly urge you to take part as this has had such a positive impact on me and I would hope it would do the same for you. This year, I raised over $1,500.00 with the help of many friends, family, co-workers, colleagues, etc. and next year, my goal is to get to $5,000 and recruit others to run as well. I hope to see you there.
Once again, thank you to all of our service members active and retired and your families for your service!
Submitted by Mark Dearborn, Vice President – Corporate Accounts, Arpin Group, Inc.
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