Montclair, VA September 29, 2010 – Running the 26.2 mile Marine Corps Marathon can be the challenge of a lifetime, but imagine tackling the race using a wheelchair and crutches. That’s exactly what eleven wounded personnel from Britain and Denmark hope to accomplish as part of Team Azalea Charities’ Run for Wounded Warriors. This year, Azalea Charities is partnering with the new Allied Forces Foundation to sponsor a 150-person team with one Canadian, nine Danes, seventeen British and 123 Americans, including 38 active duty and retired U.S military personnel.
The international team members - fit and wounded - are all soldiers, airmen and marines who are raising funds for wounded in their respective countries as well as for American wounded through Azalea Charities’ Aid for Wounded Warriors.
The British Paratroopers are sending a five-man team that includes four wounded members. Integral to the team is Lance Corporal Tom Neathway, who lost both legs and an arm to a booby trap last July in Afghanistan. Tom plans to start out on his artificial limbs for as long as he can, knowing that he can rely on the support of his comrades to complete the whole distance. Other wounded Paratroopers on the team are Corporal Pete McCoombe, who has lost an eye, Private Jaco van Gass, who has lost an arm, and Private Keiron Dry, who has sustained a head injury.
The British Rifles’ eleven-man team pairs four wheelchair warriors with the riflemen who patrolled alongside them at the time of injury. This group returned from Afghanistan in May, having sustained 28 dead with many more wounded. It is a testament to their individual and collective courage that they are able to compete so soon.
Nine Danish soldiers, serving under British command in Afghanistan, include two double amputees in racing hand-rims and proudly represent The Royal Life Guards, The Guard Hussars, The Jutland Dragoons and The Royal Danish Air Force. With a population of just over 5.6 million (1/56 that of the US, or twice the population of the City of Chicago) those conflicts together have claimed 44 Danish fallen, and in excess of 150 wounded. Within the ISAF coalition, these numbers proportionately represent the greatest losses of all the nations. The gallant Danes have fought way above their numbers and continue to do so.
The British Royal Engineer Commandos are represented - this year on the sidelines - by Corporal Ross Austen. Competing with his unit last year, Ross completed the race using crutches and a wheel chair after seventeen surgeries within the eleven 11 months preceding the race. Norm Albert, Azalea Charities Vice President Special Projects MCM, who heads up Team Azalea Charities, describes what Austen’s presence meant to him at that time: "I spent most of the last 11 miles on the course totally choked up and holding back tears listening to the comments people made to Ross. I can't even imagine the impact he had on so many people, to include runners struggling with exhaustion or pain in those last few miles on the course to maintain some sense of forward movement, only to see Ross on his crutches taking one step at a time to finish his quest. What an incredible young man with more courage and perseverance than I've ever witnessed."
The Allied Forces Foundation is a British-American group established to recognize and further the special relationship of both those nations, and to work to raise awareness and funding primarily for the common wounded and their families affected by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Steve Cain, Executive Director of the Allied Forces Foundation, “The participation of joint fit and wounded teams in the Marine Corps Marathon reinforces the AFF’s mission to build on the strength of the Steadfast Alliance. Our teams serve to create better recognition of the enormous challenges faced by those returning from combat with life-changing injuries. That they themselves raise funds for their own wounded comrades is a clear indication of their self-worth and humanity.”
Last year Team Azalea Charities welcomed over 20 British soldiers, airmen, and marines and raised approximately $100,000 for U.S. and British service personnel. According to Frank Lasch, Chairman & Founder of Azalea Charities, “Having these wounded warriors run in the Marine Corps Marathon to raise funds for other wounded warriors sends a powerful message that raises awareness for the cause and provides inspiration to the thousands of wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
About The Allied Forces Foundation
The Allied Forces Foundation is designed to recognize and further the Steadfast Alliance of the United States and the United Kingdom, which nations' long history of cooperation and comradeship is currently tested in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mission of the Allied Forces Foundation is to raise funds for Allied comrades wounded in these conflicts and to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges faced by injured warriors and their families.
For more information, contact:
Stephen Cain, Executive Director, Allied Forces Foundation
About Azalea Charities
Azalea Charities is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization in Prince William County, Virginia. The organization is staffed entirely by volunteers who donate their time, talent and money. Azalea Charities raises funds for its community charities and Aid for Wounded Warriors through membership fees, private donations and sponsorship of Team Azalea Charities in the Marine Corps Marathon and the Azalea Classic Pro-Am Invitational Golf Classic, the organization’s keystone event held each May at the Piedmont Club. Beyond minimal expenses, all the funds they raise go to their charitable core causes.
For more information, contact:
Frank Lasch, Chairman, Azalea Charities, Inc.