War on Terrorism

Monday, March 29, 2010

Couple Runs for Wounded Warriors

By Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod
U.S. Division Center

March 29, 2010 - Separated by seven time zones, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, a deployed U.S. paratrooper and his stateside wife celebrated the strength and resilience of America's wounded warriors with synchronized 50-mile runs March 20-21. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bruch, a platoon sergeant and military policeman with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, and Tammy Bruch, a doctoral candidate at University of North Carolina Greensboro, each ran 50 miles, supported by friends, relatives and Jason's unit, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

"I've had a lot of guys get [post traumatic stress disorder]," said Jason, who is on his fourth deployment to Iraq, "and they have to live with it the rest of their lives. I want to let them and the many other wounded warriors know they are not forgotten."

The idea came to the couple through Jason's interaction with Operation Proper Exit, a program that allows wounded servicemembers to visit the place of their injury to enable psychological healing to begin.

He also was influenced by Army 2nd Lt. Richard Ingram, a paratrooper with whom he currently serves, who lost his left arm to a roadside bomb during a prior deployment to Iraq.

The date for the run, March 20, was picked because it is the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

"This is a great project for a very special group," said Army Lt. Col. Douglas Stitt, battalion commander. Proud of his soldier's leadership, Stitt quipped, "To pardon the pun, he's willing to go the extra mile and then some."

"We have a bunch of soldiers who care about our fellow soldiers, those who have been wounded in combat and those who are not able to get out and maybe participate the way they want," added Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Martin Jr., the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the battalion.

Jason made 10 five-mile laps around Camp Ramadi, the U.S. military base where his unit has been deployed since August. Tammy's running course passed around Fort Bragg, N.C., and neighboring Pope Air Force Base.

Jason's run began at dusk; Tammy's began several hours after sunrise.

"I could not believe how many people were inspired by what Jason and I were doing – the support and encouragement was really overwhelming," said Tammy, now a reservist who left active duty in 2007.

The battalion's rear detachment and Jason's relatives organized individuals to run with Tammy, and many of her relatives traveled from out of town to support her. More than a dozen women from the company's family readiness group pushed strollers along part of the course in support, she said.

On Camp Ramadi, the run drew 30 participants, though many of them planned not to run the entire 50 miles. One of those who did was Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Jablow, commander of the 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron out of Baghdad, who was visiting his airmen in Ramadi.

Though Jablow runs several marathons a year, the farthest the Brooklyn, N.Y., native had run prior to the Wounded Warrior Run was 36 miles, around the island of Diego Garcia.

"I'll run any race and run any distance to be with the guys," Jablow said. "It never entered my mind that I would not finish, though after 35 miles, it was kind of rough."

In addition to the runners, several paratroopers marched 15 miles with rucksacks, and one, 25 miles. Members of Jason's squad provided much of the support.

"If it wasn't for all these aid stations out here and all these people out here pushing me, there's no way I would have made it," said Jason, who finished the run in 9 hours, 32 minutes.

Before this run, his farthest distance had been 35 miles. "I hit the wall at 20, 35 and 45 miles," he said of the sensation of total energy depletion that's familiar to marathon runners.

The couple met while deployed to Baghdad in 2005. Tammy introduced Jason to long-distance running.

"When we first met, she could smoke me," he said.

One of Tammy's goals is to run a marathon in every state. She has run four marathons since Jason deployed in August.

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