On a mission: Army officers who met at Duke running to New York to raise funds
Seven Army officers whose friendship began at Duke return to campus this weekend to start a journey that’s as unique and challenging as they come.
Products of Duke’s Blue Devil ROTC Battalion, they will run an ultra relay from Duke Chapel to Ground Zero in New York City over a six-day period beginning on Sunday.
Seth Brown, Phil Cotter, Kase Diehl, Jon Harless, Matt Jones, Michael Meehan and Pat Thompson will divide up the running, four miles at a time, in what they call The Freedom 500.
They are running to raise money for The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that produces six-month community service fellowships for post-9/11 veterans.
That organization’s founder, Eric Greitens, is a Duke grad and former Navy SEAL officer who served in four deployments overseas. The pre-event fundraising has already reached $20,000.
“Their goal is to pair veteran with volunteer organizations in their hometowns,” Thompson said, “to give back once they served overseas.”
Thompson doesn’t have to travel far from home to start the journey on Sunday. A senior intelligence officer for the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion based in Greensboro, Thompson works with Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as the team’s director of basketball operations.
A four-year manager for the team as an undergrad, he received his Duke degree in public policy studies in 2011 and stayed with the team as a graduate assistant while he attended Duke Divinity School. Thompson earned his master’s degree in Christian Studies in May.
He and his six friends are tasked with covering 75 miles between Sunday and the event’s finish on Aug. 17 in New York City.
“I think we are looking at it as a challenge but it’s something that we know is attainable,” Thompson said. “All seven of us are dedicated people. We have been training hard for it.”
To cover the distance from Durham to Manhattan, the team will use a two-vehicle support system. One vehicle will support runners who are actively on the road while the other scouts the route ahead and allows runners to rest.
Along the way, the team will pass through Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. They will also make stops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit wounded soldiers and take a tour of the Pentagon.
But other than that, the team will have a runner on the ground round the clock until they cross the George Washington Bridge and reach New York City.
The event begins with the public participating in a 5K Run at Duke Chapel Quad on Sunday. Race proceeds also go toward The Mission Continues. The kickoff event also includes public speakers and live music by CrossOverDrive.
Tickets for the event, which begins at 1 p.m., are $25.
The Freedom 500 will begin a 2 p.m. Sunday and, with all seven runners covering the miles, they will be in New York for a finish-line party next Saturday night at One World Trade Center.
“Each is going to pull their own weight,” Thompson said. “We are going to accomplish the mission to give back in a small way to the people who have sacrificed for our country.”
Interested in helping? Tickets for Sunday’s kickoff event are available at https://www.fundraise.com/mission-continues/the-freedom-500-kick-off-event
Tickets for the Finish Line party in New York on Aug. 17 are available at:
More information on the journey is available at: https://www.fundraise.com/mission-continues/the-freedom-500