By John Harlow, USAG-Natick Public AffairsJuly 22, 2014
BOSTON (July 22, 2014) -- In just its fifth year, the "Run to Home Base" continues to grow and help military members who suffer from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
The Home Base Program is a joint effort of the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital, which has treated more than 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families from all parts of New England.
The concept came from Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, after the Red Sox made a 2004 visit to Walter Reed Medical Center. It has grown from there.
The Run to Home Base has grown in its five years to a record number of 2,600 runners and walkers, which included 500 active duty service members this year. It was estimated that this year's 9-kilometer run/3-mile walk raised $2 million for the Home Base Program.
"It is as important today as it was five years ago," said Werner. "The genesis of this was our understanding of how widespread post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries are, and we felt we could make a difference and provide not just care, but a place where the whole family could go to. The Veterans Administration deals with the Soldier, but it doesn't deal with the whole family. We feel that if the Soldier serves, the whole family serves."
The Home Base program fills a need for veterans in New England, and is sharing that with programs throughout the country.
"We've seen a 30 percent growth each year based on the need," said Rretired Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, the executive director of the program. "As the war winds down completely, and as these hundreds of thousands leave the service, within five years nearly 80 percent of the Soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will be in the civilian sector, and will start to realize some of their issues coming to light as they transition.
"We've provided clinical training to more than 10,000 clinicians from all 50 states so far," Hammond continued. "We're working with four or five different academic medical centers to replicate this program in other regions of the country."
Not only did 2,600 runners and walkers hit the start line on Yawkey Way and cross home plate at Fenway Park, more than 1,000 took part in a shadow Run to Home Base, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Also, 83 runners took part in the first shadow run at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Guantanamo run was organized by Capt. Tyler Field, commander of the 747th Military Police Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard.
"I decided to do the shadow run partly as [morale, welfare and recreation] event for my Soldiers," said Field. "Being from the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I knew my Soldiers would enjoy being able to do the run. But mainly I wanted to generate awareness for the Home Base Program.
"Working in a joint environment, I felt that my fellow service members were the right audience," Field said. "They likely know someone who suffers from [traumatic brain injury] or [post-traumatic stress disorder], and now they know programs like the Home Base Program are available."
The Red Sox sent a Fenway Park home plate for the runners at Guantanamo to cross when they finished their 9-kilometer run.
Field's wife Kelly, helped organize the Bagram Airfield shadow run, and ran in it when she was deployed to Afghanistan.
In the five years of the run, more than $11 million has been raised for the Home Base Program.
To learn more about the Home Base Program, visit www.homebaseprogram.org.