FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - George Matthews II, 17, runs for the excitement, adrenaline and competition. He thought he would maybe win his age group at the 2nd Annual 5K Run/Walk for the Troops in Fayetteville Saturday. Instead he was the overall winner of the race, blazing the finish line with a time of 18:53.

"I feel great and I am elated!" said Matthews a 71st High School senior from Fayetteville shortly after finishing the race. "I did not see it coming that is for sure."

The race was hosted by the USO of North Carolina's Fort Bragg Center to benefit the USO's outreach programs and services that support servicemembers stationed around the globe.
The Fort Bragg center welcomes servicemembers and encourages them to enjoy the 4,200 square foot facility that houses pool tables, computers connected to the Internet, video games, books, refreshments and many other comforts of home.

The USO operates more than 130 centers in nine countries, 21 states and the District of Columbia.
"We have just one checkbook. Funds that help to support this event may help another center as well as support the Fort Bragg Center. Directors from other centers came today to assist at the event - it takes team work. This is just one of the many events we do across the state," said John Faulkenberry, president of the USO of N.C.

A record number of participants participated in this year's run/walk, totaling 499. This almost doubled the numbers from last year, said Faulkenberry.

Participants and volunteers came from as far away as Uniondale N.Y. and across the state of North Carolina. One such runner was Val Price, 63, and a Vietnam veteran from Raleigh.

"I have to say this was a very organized race. It is one of the best races in Fayetteville that I have run since the Cinco De Mayo race last year," said Price who finished in third place for his age group.

For many runners who participated, the run was a great way to show support for the troops and enjoy a morning workout. Sarah Kraxberger, 26, and a Fayetteville native ran to show support for her husband a North Carolina national guardsman and his fellow servicemembers. She also used the run for a benchmark fitness test as part of her continued triathlon training. Aca,!A..

"I think it is really great that they host this. This is one of the nicest races I have seen around here. I am very surprised," said Kraxberger.

She completed the race coming in 13th overall and 3rd for the top women with a time of 21:52.
Matthews, the son of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, also stressed his support for the military. "I think we need to show them support. If they can risk their lives for us, what can we do for them and to serve them," he said.

Not everyone at the race came out to run or walk though. An enormous number of volunteers were required to ensure the event was a success. They manned registration tables, assisted runners and walkers, passed out refreshments and cheered on participants as they crossed the finish line.

Jean Browne, of Sanford, N.C. was one of those volunteers. She began her work and
volunteering with the USO in San Jose, Calif. almost five years ago. Her daughter Michelle
Gideons, is a member of the Air Force and her son-in-law, Edwin Gideons were running in Saturday's race. Browne said she enjoys her work with the USO showing support for the military. She said she could not believe how many people turned out and was happy to come out and support the troops and her Family members at the race.

"I really came out to see if my daughter would beat my son in law, but she didn't," she said with a laugh.

First Sergeant Robert Cobb, first sergeant of A Troop, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division said he was happy to enjoy the race in the company of his Family this year. He ran the race pushing his two children in a jogging stroller while his wife, Trabille also ran.

"I feel pretty good after pushing both kids. I think this is awesome. My wife ran it last year when I was deployed so I was happy to be able to do it with her and the kids this year," he said.
As for a 3rd annual Run for the Troops, there seems to be no doubt the race will be back next year.

"The turnout and energy is great. We will definitely continue the race next year. I believe in the next years to come we will have more and more participation and sponsorship carrying on the success," said Janine Bresnihan, USO of N.C. Fort Bragg Center director.

For more information about the USO of N.C. Fort Bragg Center or how to donate to support the troops, visit the center at Building M-4226 Goldberg St., online at www.uso-nc.org or call 495-1437.

The USO accepts donations through the Combined Federal Campaign. Give through the CFC by using the code: 29349.