Saturday marks the 14th annual Run for the Warriors in Jacksonville. The event is a product of Hope for the Warriors, a nonprofit Veteran service organization that provides assistance to combat wounded service members and their families. The organization hosts similar runs across the country, but for many Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Jacksonville residents, the Onslow County event is special.
Hope for the Warriors was founded in 2006 in Jacksonville. Since then, the organization has helped more than 20,000 post 9/11 service members with clinical health and wellness, transition services, sports and recreation programs. The Run for the Warriors is chief among its recreation programs and aims to support service members in the Jacksonville area while providing physical activity.
Saturday’s run is part of the Onslow County Sports Commission race series. It is broken down into a half marathon, 10K and 5K distances, along with the symbolic First Mile.
“When we were founded in 2006, it was at the peak of the war in the Middle East,” said Robyn Womac, Run for the Warriors director. “You saw a lot of injured military members coming back. That first mile was a symbol of them taking their first steps toward recovery.”
Memorial signs for fallen service members will be displayed along the run route. Prior to setting out, runners can visit the Memorial Meadow that bears flags with the names of fallen service members. Runners can carry those flags with them throughout their run before returning them after completion of their route.
“We’re carrying those fallen military members’ memories with us as we run,” Womac said.
Saturday’s race is on a new route, with all runners starting at the same point before branching into their selected distances. Starting at Jacksonville’s train depot, runners will carry on to old downtown, through the woods surrounding the area and then through the Beirut and Vietnam memorials.
“We’re so honored those memorials let our runners and adaptive service members run through their space,” Womac said. “I think this course is not necessarily a fast one, but it’s about experiencing what Jacksonville has to offer. … As a runner, I think seeing that scenery makes it much more enjoyable.”
The event is a community effort, Womac said, adding her appreciation for volunteers as well as the Jacksonville city departments such as parks and recreation, streets and police, which will be providing more than 30 officers to keep the event safe.
“The Jacksonville community has been so supportive through the years,” Womac said. “We have residents coming out of their doors to cheer on our runners and adaptive service members. It really helps.”
Along with help from those outside Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s gates, Womac had high praise for the role the installation plays in making the event happen.
“Camp Lejeune has been terrific,” Womac said. “They bring out about 100 or more single Marines from their Single Marine Program to help work as route marshals … (who) provide motivation and guidance for runners.”
Registration will continue until 7 a.m. Saturday. Those seeking to register can visit runforthewarriors.org to sign up. They are also advised to check the Hope for the Warriors Facebook page for special details. For those who are averse to registering online, packet pick-up registration will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Marine Corps Exchange on Camp Lejeune and from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Stevenson Automobile Group in Jacksonville. Registration on race day opens at 6 a.m. Fees vary by event.