By Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsNovember 3, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y., Nov. 3, 2011 -- In his second year as Team Long Gray Line coordinator, Class of 2012 Cadet Taylor Mosera ran just under a three-hour, 30-minute finish at the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 30.
But time had little to do with the race for this team of cadets and officers. They were running to remember.
Remembering fallen service members and supporting their families is the mission of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
TAPS was founded in 1994 as a national non-profit organization to provide comfort and care to families of fallen service members. Team Long Gray Line formed last year in support of the TAPS Run and Remember Team at the Marine Corps Marathon, their largest fundraising venue.
In 2010, Class of 2012 Cadet Douglass Waggoman challenged Mosera to enter his first marathon. Mosera didn't want to run the 26.2 miles just for fun; he needed a cause. That's when he found out about TAPS, and the appeal of running in support of a fallen servicemember's family was a big factor. Waggoman, the team co-captain and executive officer, might have given Mosera the support to cross the finish line that year, but the inspiration came from the photo of Capt. Doug DiCenzo and his son he wore on the back of his singlet.
"He was a 1999 graduate of West Point and I had emailed his wife and had a few telephone conversations with her," Mosera said. "He had participated in all sorts of endurance events himself, and I wanted to find out from her what it might mean to them for a current West Point cadet to run in his memory."
It was extremely inspirational, he said, but also educational to have learned about this charitable organization.
"As a future Army officer, I'm going to be put in charge of a group of Soldiers who probably have been on multiple deployments already," Mosera said. "How will I provide them with the support and assistance they may need? TAPS is a window into that kind of information I may need."
This year, Mosera ran for another fallen West Point graduate, Capt. David Boris (Class of 1999), again pinning a photograph of the Soldier on his back. Running a marathon is a significant physical and mental challenge, Mosera said, and as a cadet sponsoring a member of the Long Gray Line, it becomes a personal challenge not to falter.
"Having that photo on your back and runners right behind you seeing that photo and knowing who you're running for -- there's no way you're going to stop and walk," Mosera said. "I remember when I was running and could feel that photo on my back. It reminds you that you're running for a reason and that mattered more than my calves hurting or the shin splints."
Ultimately, the pain of running a marathon is nothing compared to the sacrifices made by service members in support of the nation, Mosera said. That's what kept him breaking through those mental walls while running the marathon.
"Being a part of the Run and Remember Team, you remember those sacrifices and it keeps you going," Mosera said. "And inevitably the next question becomes 'What more can I do?'"
The first Run and Remember Team comprised of two individuals running in the 2000 Marine Corps Marathon. Today, the team boasts more than 400 runners; the largest support team being Team Long Gray Line, which grew from 15 runners last year to its current crop of more than 75 participants.
Mosera said it wasn't difficult to assemble a team of runners at West Point, and their efforts raised just over $67,000 for the cause, exceeding their initial goal of $50,000. That total could still rise as the donation deadline continues another six weeks.
Team Long Gray Line is currently ranked first in team donations, and Class of 2014 Cadet Alex Brammer, the team's operations officer, is the fifth ranked individual fundraiser.
On his TAPS profile page, Brammer stated: "As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I have seen first-hand the devastation that military families go through in the event of a tragedy, and programs like TAPS go a long way in helping to support these families."
So far, the 2011 Run and Remember Team has raised more than $266,355 from participating in the 36th Marine Corps Marathon.
TAPS is also listed under the Combined Federal Campaign, which runs through December.
To learn more about Team Long Gray Line, become a Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/pages/Team-Long-Gray-Line/195954573762997?sk=wall, or visit their TAPS page at www.taps.org.