WWII veteran inspires others to run with a purpose - Camp Lejeune Globe: Sports

WWII veteran inspires others to run with a purpose

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Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2018 12:00 am

Sgt. Maj. Domenick Irrera served his country for 43 years. He served in World War II, the Korean War and in the Vietnam War. The south Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native dedicated himself to keeping up his fitness. The way he accomplished this was through running, in the United States Marine Corps and outside of it.

“I enjoyed serving in the USMC,” said Irrera. “My father taught me as a young kid to defend myself and I didn’t know any place that had more fighting in it than the Marine Corps. My whole fix in life was being in the USMC when they were fighting in a war.”

Passion for serving his country runs deep for Irrera embodying all of the values of a service member.

“Sergeant major is a kind, humble and passionate person,” said Jenna McDonald, sports and recreation manager at Hope For The Warriors. “He loves running and loves to share his wisdom with others. He is the kind of person Hope For The Warriors is proud to have as a supporter as he understands and has been impacted by military service.”

Irrera has attended the races since the start of the Run for the Warriors event back in 2006. However, the way he got involved with the races was through Robin Kelleher, Hope For The Warriors president.

“Myself and another sergeant major were running down Gum Branch Road and this young lady stopped us,” said Irrera. “She asked if we would go run in the wounded warrior race and we accepted the invitation. What touches me deeply about the Run for the Warriors cause is that it is for our people, the Marines.”

Even after his time in the Marine Corps. Irrera continued being a fitness phenomenon with more than 50 marathons and countless races under his belt.

“Running (especially for Marines) has been a tradition and it gives you stability,” said Irrera. “No one said you have to run 10 miles, just run what you can, increasing the amount each day.”

Many service members each year in Jacksonville compete in the Run for the Warriors race, including Irrera.

“Sergeant major served honorably for many years. He found solace and peace while running,” said McDonald. “Hope for the Warriors Sports and Recreation program specifically aims to provide a community that embraces the warrior athlete, reengages the warrior competitive spirit all while providing a community that supports these efforts of healing and rejuvenation by service members and veterans. We believe that sergeant major embodies that mission and the warrior spirit.”

Staff Sgt. Nicole Shimp represented Irrera in the 13th annual Run for the Warriors event, by wearing his bib number 312. Shimp placed second in her age bracket.

“I already enjoy running, but to run in honor of Irrera was gratifying and felt like I had to push myself harder in the 5K race,” said Shimp, Wounded Warrior Battalion East section leader.

For more information on veterans like Irrera and the Hope For The Warriors organization, visit www.hopeforthewarriors.org.