Honor a veteran -- get involved with Honor361 or SwimBikeRun

January 31, 2014

I'm a Persian Gulf War veteran.

I was a legal specialist in the Army, and during the war, my services weren't exactly in high demand. Instead, I did a lot of other support roles in the military police battalion I served with. I spent a lot of time traveling across Saudi Arabia and parts of Iraq to get mail from makeshift post offices for our units.The highlight for many soldiers in war is that correspondence from home -- love letters, care packages or just a hello from an old pal. I'll always remember bringing that moment of joy for my fellow soldiers.

When I left the Army to go back to college, I pledged to serve veterans in some form or another. I haven't always been as successful at that as I wanted, because, well, life happens. You're blessed with marriage and a kid, a good career and you get busy living life. Sometimes your well intentions get pushed to the back burner.

The success I have had serving veterans has been as a journalist. I've written personality profiles about veterans, researched and written veterans issue stories, covered parades and tried to shine the light as brightly as I could on veterans organizations.

When I heard about Honor361, I was thrilled. Gilbert Ramon's movement to spearhead an Iraqi Afghanistan War Monument here in our back yard is a great idea. Honor361

"Our goal is to make a monument that will make people want to visit," Ramon said.

It's not only a great idea, but a BIG idea that needs help. So, enter SwimBikeRun, an event to help raise money for the monument. The inaugural event is a super sprint triathlon featuring a 400-meter swim, 10.5-mile bike and a 2-mile run course.

"This event will also involve Wounded Warrior Athletes," he said. "So we are hoping that our community comes out to support and cheer them on."

If you think this is just an event built on the fly, think again.

"Swim Bike Run of Victoria was contacted by the city-VBC to organize a triathlon event here in Victoria," said Brandee Bratton, who is helping organize the event. "Our staff consists of two USAT Race Directors, Joe Bratton and Kimberly Rollins, who organizes numerous racing events here in Victoria and Edna."

The triathlon bounced around a few ideas for a nonprofit before settling on Honor361. Ramon approached Bratton asking for help prior to the triathlon forming. "I took it as a 'sign' from God that the triathlon and Honor361 were meant to be tied together," Bratton said.

The event will have a military theme that includes dog tags for finisher medals and discounts for military registrants. It will also include special activities at the race such as ROTC kids and an Army or Air Force band, Bratton said.

The event's date, May 11, also has a special meaning.

Marcus Luttrell will be in Victoria for the Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity's 3rd Annual Sweat Equity Speaker Series on May 10.His book "Lone Survivor" has become a big hit at the box office.The race also has special plans arranged for all race participants to pick up their race day packets on May 10 at Faith Family Church where the Field of Honor is for the upcoming Warriors Weekend, Bratton said.

"I think most everyone involved is passionate about what this race stands for, who it stands for and that alone makes it a success," Bratton said. "Now that 'Lone Survivor' is out, I hear more and more people saying things like 'It is truly a blessing that such men walk the earth.' And for every man and every woman who sacrifices himself/herself for our life, we are honored," she said.

The event's goal is simple.

They want to "provide an event honoring our military men and women who served in Iraq-Afghanistan while organizing a race everyone can have a part in," she said. "The reward will be a monument that will educate our community and our children on the sacrifices to protect our freedoms. This goal is essential to ensure their sacrifice will not be forgotten."

So, how can you help?

Volunteer. Help the event. Make your company a sponsor of the event.

"We will be making this an annual event with a goal to build a Vietnam Monument" after the Iraq Afghanistan one is built, Ramon said. "We are currently looking for sponsors."

To help

Go to the Facebook pages of either Honor361 or SwimBikeRun and post that you want to get involved. You can also email the race at sbrofvictoria@gmail.com.