By Sgt. Michael J. MacLeodMarch 24, 2010
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (Army News Service March 24, 2010) -- Separated by seven time zones, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, a deployed U.S. paratrooper and his stateside wife celebrated the strength and resiliency of America's wounded warriors with synchronized 50-mile runs March 20-21.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bruch, a platoon sergeant and military policeman with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, and Tammy Bruch, a doctoral candidate at University of North Carolina, each ran 50 miles, supported by friends, relatives and Jason's unit, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
"I've had a lot of guys get [post traumatic stress disorder], and they have to live with it the rest of their lives. I want to let them and the many other wounded warriors know they are not forgotten," said Jason, who is on his fourth deployment to Iraq.
The idea came to the couple through Jason's interaction with Operation Proper Exit, a program that allows wounded servicemembers to visit the place of their injury to enable psychological heeling.
He was also influenced by 2nd Lt. Richard Ingram, a Soldier he currently serves with who lost his left arm to an improvised explosive device during a prior deployment to Iraq.
The date, March 20, was picked because it is the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
"This is a great project for a very special group," said Lt. Col. Douglas Stitt, commander of 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "He's willing to go the extra mile and then some," Stitt said.
"We have a bunch of Soldiers who care about our fellow Soldier, those who have been wounded in combat and those who are not able to get out and maybe participate the way they want," added Command Sgt. Maj. John Martin Jr., the highest-ranking enlisted Soldier in the battalion.
Jason made ten five-mile laps around Camp Ramadi, the U.S. military base where his unit has been deployed since August 2009. Tammy's course traveled around Fort Bragg, N.C., and neighboring Pope Air Force Base.
Jason's run began at dusk; Tammy's began several hours after sunrise.
"I could not believe how many people were inspired by what Jason and I were doing -- the support and encouragement was really overwhelming," said Tammy, now a reservist who left active duty in 2007.
The 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion rear detachment and Jason's relatives organized individuals to run with Tammy, and many of her relatives traveled from out of town to support her. More than a dozen women from the company Family Readiness Group pushed strollers along part of the course in support, she said.
On Camp Ramadi, the run drew 30 participants, though many fewer planned to run the entire 50 miles.
One of those who did was Lt. Col. Mark Jablow, commander of the 82 Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squad out of Baghdad, who was visiting his airmen in Ramadi.
Though Jablow runs several marathons a year, the farthest the Brooklyn, N.Y., native had run prior to the Wounded Warrior Run was 36 miles, around the island of Diego Garcia.
"I'll run any race and run any distance to be with the guys," said Jablow. "It never entered my mind that I would not finish, though after 35 miles, it was kind of rough."
In addition to the runners, several paratroopers marched 15 miles with rucksacks, and one, 25 miles. Members of Jason's squad provided much of the support.
"If it wasn't for all these aid stations out here and all these people out here pushing me, there's no way I would have made it," said Jason, who finished the run in 9 hours, 32 minutes.
Before this run, his farthest distance had been 35 miles. "I hit the wall at 20, 35 and 45 miles," he said of the sensation familiar to marathon runners with total energy depletion.
The couple met while deployed to Baghdad in 2005. Tammy introduced Jason to long-distance running.
"When we first met, she could smoke me," he said.
One of Tammy's goals is to run a marathon in every state. She has run four marathons since Jason deployed in August.