FORT BELVOIR, Virginia -- The U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and U.S. Army Cyber Command / Second Army held their fourth annual Breast Cancer/Cancer Awareness 5K Run/Walk on Fort Belvoir, Oct. 27.

The event, designed to heighten breast cancer awareness as well as other forms of the disease, focused on the theme 'The Best Protection is Early Detection.'

Now in its fourth year, the event beginning at the Nolan Building, was highlighted by guest speaker Melissa O'Neil, an Army veteran, two-time breast cancer survivor and wife of Col. Brian O'Neil, INSCOM assistant chief of staff, G-1.

"It's so important to know your body, self-check and be your own advocate," Mrs. O'Neil, an avid marathon runner told those in attendance. "I found both of my cancers myself."

Beryl Patterson, one the event's organizers, is another survivor who credits early detection with saving her life.

"My diagnosis was at a routine appointment," Patterson said. "They caught it early. Had they not, there's no telling what could have happened."

Patterson was thrilled to have Mrs. O'Neil as the guest speaker.

"I'm lucky to call Melissa a friend," added Patterson, INSCOM finance operations defense travel administrator and victor over stage 2 breast cancer. "I preach the breast cancer theme about early detection because I believe in it."

Mrs. O'Neil spoke about her journey through multiple cancer treatments and her first 5K run in support of breast cancer awareness back in the early 2000's. It was close to the finish of that race, in Seattle, that she said she realized, "I wasn't running away from cancer, I was running towards life."

With her remarks complete, Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians, contractors and family members filed out into the rainy fall afternoon to participate in the approximately three-mile event. Some chose to run, while others opted for a more leisurely stroll.

Many participants were clad in pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness
Month while others wore uniforms or work attire.

INSCOM Headquarters and Headquarters Company Soldiers provided water points and words of encouragement throughout the course, adding to the festive atmosphere the event has come to represent.

"We are out here supporting a great cause," said Spc. Ashley Martinez, part of the INSCOM G-2. "I'm happy to be helping out in any way I can."

The afternoon's event concluded with health and cancer related information booths and refreshments including pink frosted cake. Event participants were able to take pictures, share experiences, socialize and meet with the event's organizers.

For Patterson and Mrs. O'Neil, events like these provide an opportunity to continue to spread their message of awareness, hope and strength. Both survivors expressed an appreciation for those who came out in support of a cause which affects us all.