By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneNovember 30, 2009
It's the men's 10,000 meter final in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. And America's Billy Mills is running the race of his life.
He's in third place entering the final stretch. He surges to the front, past the prerace favorite, Australia's Ron Clarke.
Mills wins the gold medal. To this day, he remains the only American to have ever won an Olympic medal in the 10,000 meter race.
"That moment was magical," he told the applauding audience Thursday in Bob Jones Auditorium. "I truly felt I had wings on my feet."
Mills, a Sioux Indian who ran for Kansas University, was the keynote speaker at Team Redstone's National American Indian Heritage Month celebration.
He told the estimated 275 attendees about his personal journey through his struggles to find his identity and to overcome discrimination. After receiving his bachelor's degree in education, Mills joined the Marine Corps. He increased his running to 100 miles a week in preparation for the Olympic trials where he finished second to qualify for the American team. At the Olympics in Tokyo, he was a virtually unknown 26-year-old who sprinted past the expected medal winners to win the gold.
"I won, I won, I won, I won," he said, recalling his thoughts as he won the race.
In 1984, Mills' life was made into a major motion picture, "Running Brave." He is the author of "Your Personal Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding," which blends traditional Native American beliefs with modern positive thinking principles.
Near the end of his talk, he showed a brief video which ended with Olympic hero Jesse Owens' quotation that everyone should have a dream. Mills then had a parting message for the Team Redstone audience.
"I am humbled as a Marine Corps veteran to be here with you today," he said, "because you are protecting the dream."
In support of this year's National American Indian Heritage Month observance, Team Redstone sponsored an essay and static display contest. The essay winners include first place, Linda Mendenhall of AMCOM Legal Office; second, Robert Whitaker of the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space; and third, Deane McKay of the Garrison's Equal Employment Opportunity Office. The display winners include first place, 2nd Army Recruiting Brigade; second, PEO for Missiles and Space; and third, Missiles and Space Intelligence Center.
Redstone commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles also recognized members of Redstone's Army Ten-Miler team who won two divisions at this year's race in Washington, D.C.