Desert Voice

 Camp Arifjan, Kuwait


 So how did you spend your Memorial Day Weekend?  107 hardcore soldiers at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait willingly braved the blazing heat and darkness of night to complete a 24 hour team relay at the camp track that resulting in a combined mileage of 645 miles.  Why, exactly, would anyone want to run that far on a holiday more often dedicated to rest and relaxation? 

The “24 Hour Run for the Troops” was organized to raise awareness and funds for the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. and the Veterans Coalition.  The Veterans of the Vietnam War Inc. (VVnW) is an international non profit organization which has been the driving force behind a military support package program that has delivered more than 7500 packages to our deployed troops at a cost in excess of $300,000.  The VVnW ran (literally!) this fund raiser in order to continue the program which has touched so many of our soldiers throughout the world. 

Major Marc Hoffmeister, a soldier assigned to the Coalition Forces Component Command in Kuwait, spent the last several months organizing this series of 24-hour runs to support troops engaged in fighting terrorism around the world.  The “24 Hour Run For The Troops” united over 150 runners in eight different states, Australia, England, and Kuwait on May 29th, by starting simultaneously at 12:00 hours Greenwich Mean Time and running non stop for 24 hours. 

Teams and individuals challenged their own personal limits by running the full time period. Each runner's effort was symbolic of the hardships and sacrifices of soldiers combating terrorism and that of the military families who have endured the fears and loneliness that accompany a soldier's deployment to combat.

The Run for the Troops was sponsored by the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. and the Veteran’s Coalition (  Participants raised money through pledges to help support the organization's Military Support Package program and similar veteran initiatives.  "The global war on terrorism has crossed international borders and touched us all. Many of our soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice or had their lives altered by injuries sustained in combat," says Hoffmeister.  Just as the war on terrorism has defied international borders, the 24 Hour Run for the Troops set the ambitious goal of going global.   

The event was designed to encourage and enable runners of all ability levels and backgrounds to be able to participate.  “All you had to do was want to contribute.  With a little creativity, every runner designed their own experience, be it alone or as a team, in order to show their support for the troops”.  Teams ran the event as a relay in order to encourage more participants to embrace the challenge.  At Camp Arifjan, the run started out with two teams, Team Coalition Forces-Kuwait had 44 runners and Team 1st Armor Division with 29 runners.  During the event, 35 more soldiers joined in to help rack up the mileage and the pledges.  Thirteen runners ran over 10 miles during the 24 hr period, several of which ran a 10K the same day in addition to their laps at the track.  The two heavy hitters for mileage were Major Roy Sons, who ran 31 miles, and Hoffmeister who covered 44 miles. 

An outstanding corps of volunteers, led by Major Bob Sutter, kept the runners going through the night and kept them hydrated despite temperatures that soared up to 113 degrees.  Not only did soldiers volunteer their time to make this event a success, but representatives from the base support agencies donated critical time, supplies and resources that kept everyone healthy and happy for the long haul. 

To date, the teams at Camp Arifjan have raised $6370, but its not over…the cutoff for pledge submissions is 30 June 2004.  It costs the Veterans Coalition an average of $40 per package mailed.  Information on how to support these courageous runners and donate to the cause can be found online or by contacting the Veterans Coalition at 1-800-843-8626.   



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