By Lindy DinklageFebruary 29, 2008
Sgt. Maj. Ruben (Ben) Cavazos with the 8th Human Resources Sustainment Center, now serving in Kuwait, was named the 2007 Army Male Athlete of the Year Thursday evening.
Cavazos was presented the award by Under Secretary of the Army Nelson Ford during a dinner at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition. He traveled from Kuwait to accept the award after being selected by the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.
Cavazos, 48, a long-distance running and sports enthusiast, continues a vigorous training regiment at an age when most professional athletes have already reached retirement.
Cavazos' most strenuous physical feat has been the Hawaii Ultra Running Team 100-mile race. He has competed in the race for the past seven years, including running the most recent race at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on Jan. 19. His unit is deployed to Kuwait from Fort Shafter, Hawaii,
In order to make this year's race special, and reach out to his fellow Soldiers, Cavazos dedicated the race to Wounded Warriors, and through donations and sponsors, raised over $10,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
"I wanted to do something different to bring the community together and help someone else," said Cavazos. "Bringing the Wounded Warrior Project into the picture was probably the highlight of the event. And to have the heart of the community, from the three and four star to the youngest Soldier be a part of it, in one way or another, whether it was running with me, helping, or donating money, that is something that hasn't been done before."
The thought of a 100-mile run may seem impossible to some, but Cavazos sees the event as a test of his physical and mental abilities.
"In the Army, we are foot soldiers," said Cavazos. "We are required to be physically and mentally flexible, do anything, capable to do anything. I always have been very much a fan of physical activities."
Through the years Cavazos has played soccer, competed in triathlons, and even suffered injuries that threatened to keep him from the activities he loves. Almost ten years ago Cavazos fractured his knee, and doctors told him he wouldn't be able to run.
Cavazos quickly defied that prediction by continuing to run, train and compete.
"Being able to rehab myself and get back into shape," said Cavazos, "that is something that I don't take for granted, regardless of the situation, because I still remember the pain I went through getting back into physical fitness after breaking my knee."
Cavazos said that running has always been his favorite activity, and gives him a chance to think, while getting physically and mentally tougher. That feeling of pushing past physical limitations is part of what continues to draw Cavazos to the HURT 100 race.
"It is always a challenge, because of regardless of how much training I do, there are a lot of things that will happen on the course," said Cavazos. "So I just have to stay focused, physically and mentally, overcome those obstacles and reach the finish line. But every year I know that I will finish, that I will reach the finish line."
Cavazos said the support of his friends has helped him get through previous races, and that the HURT 100 to benefit the Wounded Warriors project drew on the support of his unit, and many across the camp who had friends or relatives who were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"I've been deployed before," said Cavazos. "I've lost friends in combat before. Some were wounded and are still alive, missing a leg, an arm, and now we continue to see that and I wanted to help. I wanted to make a difference, whether it was to help one of my friends or help someone who has just joined the Army in 2007. I wanted to help reach out and just tell them that we care, that my unit could be a part of the solution in some small way."
Cavazos was recognized for his athletic performance Feb. 28 during a dinner at the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition. At the dinner, Acting Under Secretary of the Army Nelson Ford and President of the Association of the United States Army Gordon R. Sullivan presented Cavazos, Sgt. 1st Class Agustin Mendez and Staff Sgt. Evevetta Crawford with awards recognizing the three Soldiers for their exceptional athletic performance. Cavazos and Crawford were named the 2007 Army male and female athletes of the year, while Mendez was named the 2007 Army Coach of the year.