More than five hundred miles will be conquered over a span of 28 days as students join the efforts of Run Ranger Run to raise awareness for veterans who have a difficult transition from military life to civilian life.
Throughout February, thousands of people from all over the United States and overseas come together to participate in fundraising money for transitioning veterans.
Run Ranger Run participants of all ages, in groups of up to 10 or individuals, walk, bike, run or swim a total of 565 miles in hopes of spreading awareness to issues such as unemployment, divorce, social isolation, homelessness and suicide.
Many veterans, men and women, are forgotten and struggle to adjust to life back home from the military.
Tim Abel, former Army Ranger and GallantFew board member, has seen this first hand, veterans struggling to get a job and sometimes struggling to write a resume.
These struggles lead to frustration, which in some cases lead to suicide when the veterans feel all the years they have spent in the military have gone to waste.
“Run Ranger Run and GallantFew really mean a lot to me because without these groups I don’t know that I would be around right now,” said third Ranger Battalion veteran U.S. Army Cpl. and Ranger Run founder Cory Smith.
Smith had been deployed twice to combat and has witnessed his friends being killed and wounded.
He created Run Ranger Run in 2012 when his wife took their daughter and asked for a divorce.
He felt lost and believed he had nothing to live for, so to get his mind off of his problems, he ran from Columbus, Ga. to Indianapolis, Ind. in 28 days.
He decided to run because he wanted to make a stand for his fellow veterans and to see his daughter at his finish line.
Run Ranger Run partnered up with GallantFew, a nonprofit organization that its main focus is veterans helping veterans by providing mentors who have successfully transitioned to society help those struggling veterans transition successfully.
GallantFew wants veterans to live a hopeful and purposeful life after the military.
The transition from the military to everyday life is difficult according to the GallantFew website because the military trains individuals to respect a hierarchy and work as a unit, whereas in the civilian world people have their own agenda and will do what is in their best interest not the best interest for the group.
“I enlisted in the Marine Corps and at 18 you’re thrown heavy responsibility,” said Cal Poly Pomona alumnus, California Highway Patrol and retired Sgt. Andre Herrarte.
“It forces you to grow up and act like an adult really quick. You meet some people that are easily capable of doing anything in life, but instead they chose to be marines and did what was honorable.”
The unemployment rate of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 56 percent higher than national unemployment rates according to Abel, which makes it difficult for veterans to provide for their families.
It is difficult to find a job when they return from the military because they do not have skills those particular jobs look for.
The employers ignore their years in service, ignore their skills to lead men and ignore the multimillion-dollar training they had just because they do not acquire the experience in the workplace.
Divorce is another issue many veterans face as they return home. According to the GallantFew website, divorce for deployment army personnel has increased 53 percent since 2003.
The increasing rates have taken a toll on the veterans making them feel like the years they spent building a family had vanished as quick as a day.
Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide according to the GallantFew website.
The veterans who resort to this are those who return to the civilian world with depression and do not know how to cope with this transition.
They were in war for so long they do not know how to live life away from the military.
Some return with missing limbs, some return with mental issues and some return to find out they are in this new world alone.
Homelessness is also a huge issue because since veterans are unemployed, depressed, have attempted suicide, have been divorced or feel complete isolation, they return home with nowhere to live according to the GallantFew website.
They had lost everything while in the military and felt lost and helpless.
The participants of Run Ranger Run run with a purpose.
Most, if not all, have a personal connection to what this cause stands for. Some have been in the military themselves, are veterans themselves, or have family members who have been or are in the military. This cause means the world to them.
“All my male relatives were or are enlisted. Half are Marines and the other half are in the army. This is very personal to me,” said second-year transfer finance student and Ranger Run participant Pablo Herrarte.
“When I see a veteran struggling I think that could easily be one of my relatives who is silently struggling with an issue but won’t voice it because they don’t want to seem weak.”
Since 2012, Run Ranger Run has raised over $700,000.
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