Beyond the very extreme and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction. –William James
What Is Running 50?
On October 26th, 2013, my best friend, Brett Foley, and I ran a 50-mile Ultramarathon to raise money for The Mission Continues, a national service organization that helps veterans transition from the military to service and leadership programs where they can continue to serve in their communities.
With less than 10 miles to go to reach the finish line, Brett had had enough.
“I was beaten and I just wanted to sit down and stop,” Brett wrote a few days after the race. “Whitney hugged me and said, ‘Remember what you’re doing this for.’ That was when everything just snapped inside my head. All the darkness went away, and I thought, ‘She’s right, there are guys that would kill to be able to use their legs again or take another step, or hug their children, or hold their wives. Some of them will never be able to do that again.”
“I felt like I had a clear head again,” Brett continues. “I thought, ‘You are going to finish this race if it kills you.’ I thought about all the people I had deployed with and all the good times that I had. I thought about all the messages on our Facebook page of people telling us what a great cause we were supporting, and I thought about my family and how they have always been there to support me, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let any of them down.”
What Is The Mission Continues?
Founded in 2007 by Eric Greitens, a Rhodes Scholar who not only earned a Doctorate from Oxford University, served as a humanitarian all over the world, but also became a decorated Navy SEAL, The Mission Continues provides military veterans with a challenge and the opportunity to rebuild a meaningful life by serving again in their communities.
The Mission Continues is such a “revolutionary program,” says John Stewart, “that is so intuitive I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before.”
How Can You Help?
As we look to the future, much is still unknown about the war in Afghanistan. We do know, however, that the startling effects of that war–and the one in Iraq–will be felt for many years to come.
It is our hope that by raising money for an organization that supports and empowers veterans who are making the challenging transition from military to civilian life, we will be able to exhibit the values veterans of every generation have so unselfishly displayed.
If you’re able, show our veterans that we need their strength and courage here at home by making a tax-deductible donation to The Mission Continues
Who Are We?
My name is David Chrisinger. That’s me in the middle of the picture below. Brett and I grew up together in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. On the night before he left for boot camp, I threw a small party for him, and while everyone else was hanging out in the basement, Brett and I crawled of my bedroom window, out onto the roof, so we could talk and take in the cool night air. I remember talking a lot about the past–all the fun times we had playing paintball in our backyards and sitting on the bench together during freshmen baseball.
I wanted to ask him if he was scared, but I thought better of it. We were both worried about the future. That’s human nature, I suppose–especially when it feels like your dreams might not come true.
I didn’t see very much of Brett after he left. I sent him a couple of letters while he was in boot camp–he only got one of them though. My dad ran into Brett a couple of times while he was home on leave. From time to time I would call Whitney to see how she was holding up. I only found out he had been deployed to Iraq after he posted pictures of his “Spring Break in Baghdad” on Facebook.
Years passed. I focused on school and work. Brett and I lost touch. Then, in the fall of 2009, I received an invitation to Brett and Whitney’s wedding, which had to take place sometime in the two weeks Brett was going to be home–before he deployed to Afghanistan.
When I saw Brett that day, I realized how much I had missed my friend. While I was busy enjoying college, Brett had circled the globe and fought a war in Iraq. When we finally got a moment to talk, I didn’t really know what to say. I asked him if he was worried about being deployed, considering that after eight years of fighting, a growing and fanatical insurgency still controlled most of Helmand Province (where Brett was to be deployed).
“No, not really. They’ve got me hooked up with a pretty good assignment. I shouldn’t really see much fighting.”
In the summer of 2010, Brett came home from Afghanistan after the end of his second and final combat deployment. To his surprise, Brett actually found coming home more difficult than going to war. He is not alone in that regard.
“Would you do it all again,” I asked him late one night, a few months after he had gotten home.
Without hesitation, Brett responded: “Yes.”
After a short pause, he continued, “Even though it fucked me up, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
He could only swallow back the numbness. “After four deployments and two wars, I realize that I’ll never be the same–I’ll never be able to forget.”
That break in his voice shot me past the veneer of his normally quiet reserve into his hard-to-discuss horror.
As the war in Afghanistan continues to wind down over the next year of so, an estimated 1 million military service members will make the same transition Brett just made. And like Brett, many of these new veterans will need help fighting the battles that follow them home.
In addition to running an Ultramarathon to raise money for The Mission Continues, Brett and I have also decided to share Brett’s story and encourage others to share their stories as well. It is our hope that by sharing veterans’ struggles (as well as their triumphs), we can make meaning amid the suffering and show others that it is possible for veterans to take back their lives.
To date, three other veterans have used this site to tell their stories:
- Zach Ruesch: “Being Deployed Was So Much Easier Than Being Home”
- Joseph Miller: “My Dank, Nasty Stairwell”
- An Anonymous Marine: “Shattered Minds, Shredded Hearts”
After the initial fear, Brett and these other veterans felt grateful to tell their stories in a space where people are trying to understand their experiences, accept them, and offer support.
Brett and I invite you to give it a try. After all, if your life does not become a story, silence will become the story of your life.
Do you have a story to tell?