MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Key Volunteer Network recently organized a new program specifically for families, loved ones and supporters of 2/7 Marines and sailors, who have been deployed to Afghanistan since April.
The program, called “I Ran to Afghanistan”, is built on the concept of bringing support and healthy lifestyles to 2/7 family members through a simple mathematical equation.
If 100 people run 11 miles every week for seven months, the added distance among all participants would be equivalent to the distance from the Combat Center to Afghanistan.
Any spouse, parent, child, sibling, or loved one of a 2/7 Marine or corpsman may participate in the program.
The program, which started May 1 and runs through Nov. 16, was created by Carolyn Schroder, the wife of 1st Lt. Brandon J.Schroder, executive officer of Echo Company, 2/7.
She said the idea of the program came about while she was having a girls’ night out with a few friends.
One of her friends, Sally Salmons, had organized a program with two other wives in May 2005 called “2/7 Families: To Iraq and Back.”
After discussing how different an Iraq deployment was from an Afghanistan deployment, the women decided something needed to be done to bring the family members and loved ones of 2/7 Marines and sailors together for support.
“I figured it was a really good way to keep the wives busy, to keep cohesion, and especially to bring in the parents,” said Schroder.
Basing her idea off Salmons’, Schroder began coordinating with 2/7 key volunteer representative Sue Cruz about making the idea a reality.
Cruz synchronized with other key volunteers by putting the word out via newsletter, posting information on the unit Web site and speaking with the commanding officer’s wife, Amy Hall.
Schroder, a Sunnyvale, Calif., native, then created a personal blog for the “I Ran to Afghanistan” program in order to make communication, registration and exchanging information easier and faster.
The blog, which can be found at http://www.rantoafghanistan. blogspot.com, features an official registration form and overview of the program’s mission.
“This initiative is a fun and easy way to show support for our Marines and sailors while reaping all the benefits of physical activity,” said Salmon, a Boston native. “The program is unique in that just about anyone connected to the 2/7 family can participate.”
Schroder said surprisingly enough, it is not wives who have had the greatest number of participants, which numbers more than 150.
“We have more parents than wives participating so far,” she said.
“We were particularly encouraged by the positive feedback from parents and extended family of our Marines and sailors,” she said, referring to the “To Iraq and Back” program. “Moms and dads experience many of the same stressors and concerns that we do as spouses, and the program provided a way for them to feel connected too.”
Schroder said there are several participants who do not know a single service member in 2/7, but insist on taking part and contributing to the total number of miles.
“We are at 6,000 miles right now,” said Schroder.
The total at the end of the first month is only 1,900 miles short of the 7,900 mile total needed by November.
For those who have more running experience, time or energy, a second option is available called “I Ran to Afghanistan and Back” and requires 22 miles a week.
Schroder said aside from getting in shape, this program offers a solid foundation to form friendships and get involved with the base community, especially for new military wives.
“A lot of these women are young wives, and it doesn’t make sense to them why they don’t hear from their husbands often,” she said. “They should definitely get out there, explore Twentynine Palms and make some friends. A deployment goes a heck of a lot faster if you have good friends or a job.”
She added that participating in community events and activities not only benefits the family members, but also puts the service members’ minds at ease.
“If I am happy, my husband is happy,” she said. “He doesn’t need to be worrying about me while I’m over here. He needs to worry about himself and his men.”
Although Schroder and her husband will be leaving the Corps soon after his return, she hopes other 2/7 families will keep the program alive and pass on her knowledge to any interested 2/7 loved ones.
“I would love to keep the program going,” she said. “I did it by myself. It’s very simple. It would be great for people to realize they can do this, and I would be honored if they did.”
It is not too late to contribute more running, walking, biking or swimming miles before the due date.
For more information or to download a registration form, go to the Combat Center Web site, http://www.29palms.usmc.mil and click on the 2/7 link.