KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Frank Combs, from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 330th Military Police Company, Police Combined Action Team, buys a drink from a convenience store in the Read more
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Operating Base Salerno found their stride, simultaneously participating in the “Got Freedom Run,” May 30.
Despite the separation, there was no issue with time difference. At 8 a.m. Central Standard Time, 5:30 p.m. locally in Afghanistan, the five-kilometer Memorial Day celebration run began.
To make this run a reality required a lot of coordination with race sponsor “Team Salute,” as well as with family members in Illinois.
“When I saw the brochure outside a park district class my son was taking, I said, ‘that's it, you are going to run for the Veterans,’” said Bridget Piagari, from Arlington Heights, Ill., a relative of one of the runners and the lead coordinator.
“My father was in the Navy, my brother was in the Marines, and we had many friends who served in all the different branches of the military. But most importantly, it was for my cousin Toby, who is currently serving in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan.”
In a showing of mutual support for Piagari and other veterans, U.S. Army Maj. Toby Logsdon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team logistical officer, organized a version of the run at Forward Operating Base Salerno at the same time as the run in Chicago.
“She was doing the run in Chicago to raise awareness for wounded military personnel and their families,” said Logsdon, who is from Clarksville, Tenn.
The run, in its seventh year, had roughly 900 runners and several hundred volunteers back in the States. Of all the participants in the stateside run, Piagari was able to raise the most money for the cause.
“As all the announcements were being made before the race started, they mentioned how much I raised and who I was running for,” Piagari said. “Thousands of people all heard that I had a cousin in Afghanistan and that he was running alongside me from there.”
The organization also sent the run’s official T-shirts at no cost to the Soldiers running, Logsdon said.
While participation was limited to only five people in Afghanistan, everything went off without a hitch. The Soldiers’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed on either end.
“It was important for me to make sure that I did well for my cousin. I wanted to make him proud of me. I knew he was (proud) the second I heard that he had not only run (the race), but had gotten (other soldiers) from his unit to do it, too,” Piagari said. “This just reaffirms to me that our soldiers are the bravest people on the planet, and we need to do more for them.”
For more information on “Team Salute” and ways to assist their efforts, visit www.saluteinc.org.
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