SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras --
It all started with one Airman who wanted to make a difference in the lives of America's wounded warriors. It ended with nine thousand dollars being donated to a charity that helps wounded service members. This is the story of a man who motivated a team, a squadron and a base to do something amazing.
It all began when Tech. Sgt. Joseph Daly, 612th Air Base Squadron, approached his commander about his desire to obtain sponsorships for a 100 mile, 24-hour run in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Unbeknownst to Daly he was about to embark on a journey that would not only touch his life and the lives of wounded vets...it would unite a base.
Within 10-minutes of his initial conversation with his commander the goal changed from being his own solo project to incorporating the entire Joint Task Force stationed at Soto Cano Air Base.
Daly wasted no time and quickly hand-picked a team of six: Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Arnold, Master Sgt. Jody Nededog, Staff Sgt. Scott Seeger and Senior Airmen Lincy Thomas and Tiffany Padilla, to plan a "Wounded Warrior 24-hour relay."
The team had two and a half weeks to make the relay a success.
"We knew it was ambitious but we don't scare too easy," said Daly.
His commander, as you can imagine, was "amazingly proud" of Daly and his team's initiative and desire to give back to those who had given so much to serve their country.
"Only in the United States military do you find such great Americans," said Lt. Col. Robert Pedersen, 612th ABS commander. "These men and women are serving on a one year remote tour, away from their loved ones, and in less than stellar conditions. And what do these "troops" do...they create a plan and work themselves to the bone to pull off a 24-hour run to support those bravest of Americans...the wounded warriors!"
Nearly everyone that participated in the event had some kind of personal link to a wounded warrior, which is why the team was so intent on making the event as successful as possible.
"Nothing brings me or the Airmen of the 612th ABS more joy than to help others and no other individual in our country has sacrificed more than a warrior, a war hero, so we thought it fitting to return that help," said Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Arnold, 612th ABS superintendent. "We may not be there by their sides as they recover...but they are always in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Soto Cano Air Base."
The event, which consisted of 23 teams from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, took place over a 24-hour period beginning at 7 a.m. on April 5 and ending at 7 a.m. on April 6.
Daly, who came up with the idea, led the planning committee and ran 65 miles in a 24-hour stretch of time. Arnold, who already works 15-hour days, as well as the two Senior Airman
(Thomas and Padilla) stayed up 24-hours straight, never leaving the field.
All of these Airmen sacrificed sleep and personal time to give to those who had sacrificed so much.
"During the last ten years, our military has often been recognized by their sacrifice in combat...so, it's nice to be able to work hard and donate to a cause that is dedicated to helping those who have given their all," said Pedersen. "So yes, utter and complete PRIDE in these greatest of Americans...truly the top one percent our country has to offer!"
During the event one member of each team had to be continually moving around the track during their allotted time or until they were relieved by a teammate. The objective was to complete as many laps as possible because participants got paid per lap (in most cases) due to the pledges. There were other events during the relay that included some inner track games to keep the people that were not in the relay at the moment entertained.
However, the focus of the event never strayed from their wounded brothers and sisters.
"These men and women have sacrificed so much for our freedoms that this is the one way we can give back, a way to say thank-you, and a way to impact their lives as the transition from war front to the home front," said Arnold. "Just as they took on the responsibility of protecting us, we took on the responsibility of assisting them in the rehabilitation."
The team, who set the bar of expectations high, was relieved when they met their goal.
"The success of this event is exactly what the wounded warriors deserved," said Daly. "I said in the beginning that I wanted this base to still be talking about this event this time next year...and, by the sound of it, that's exactly what we think is going to happen."
In just three short weeks, the unit raised over nine thousand dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project. More than half the base came out, walked, ran, cheered, volunteered, and donated in order to make a difference in the life of a wounded warrior.
"This is a testament to the hard work by the Airmen of the 612th and the generosity of the entire Joint Task Force," said Pedersen. "Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of this great nation are not only the definition of service and sacrifice...they are also the most generous Americans. It is all simply humbling to say the least!"
For more information on the Wounded Warrior Project, visit: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/mission.aspx.