— Runners are invited to participate in the 1st Annual Veterans Memorial Walk/Run on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 2. The event will take place at the Jefferson Twp. Volunteer Fire Company, located near the junction of Rt. 348 and Cortez Road in Mt. Cobb.
The race has been organized by Mt. Cobb resident Jason Van Wert, a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, in order to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
According to the group's website, the Wounded Warrior Project is a national organization that aims to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
Van Wert has a very personal reason why he chose the Wounded Warrior Project as the beneficiary of his fundraising efforts.
"I chose the Wounded Warrior Project because it has been very vocal and is a very recognizable organization benefiting the military disabled," he explained.
"I have disabilities that hinder me on a daily basis, including anxiety, PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and depression. For a long time I could not admit to myself, never mind to anyone else, that I have these issues, but if I am to try to help others, I first needed to help myself."
Van Wert departed home to join the army just three days after his graduation from North Pocono High School in 1996. His military career lasted 10 years until injuries prevented him from continuing.
During those 10 years, Van Wert was stationed in Germany, Colorado and Maryland. He was deployed to Albania in 1999 and to Iraq in 2003, where he served with the 4th Infantry Division 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
Van Wert attended Marywood University and currently works for the Defense Logistics Agency at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
Hard work and determination have enabled Van Wert to succeed despite his combat related disabilities, but he maintains that the real secret to his success is the love and support of his wife, Dena.
He said, "I am married to a wonderful woman who I care for not only as my wife but, honestly, as my best friend. I can truly say that without her presence in my life neither this interview nor this run would be happening."
The couple are the parents of four children, about whom Van Wert said, "I try to raise them to respect, remember, and honor our service men and women, for it is because of them that we have what we have…freedom!"
Dena Van Wert, Renee Saslo, Dr. Garry and Mrs. Lori Wrobleski, and former WNEP personality Frank Andrews, form the race committee.
Page 2 of 2 - "Mr. Andrews originally signed up to run the 10k. Being a former marine, he asked me to be a part of this great cause," said Van Wert.
"I am forever in Mr. Andrews' debt for his relentless help and drive to make this the premier event of our area. My entire committee is working tirelessly to provide not just a great race day, but a great event that will have people wanting to come back year after year."
Committee member Lori Wrobleski's children will be running in the 5k leg of the race, and she and her husband will be working at the event on race day to help make sure things run smoothly.
Wrobleski explained, "Jason is a dear friend who is more like a brother to me, and I've seem some of the challenges he has faced from serving in our military. When he approached me with the idea of having a race to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, I was one hundred percent on board. They do such great work for our men and women who have served and face disabilities after returning home!"
Wrobleski outlined some of what will take place on race day.
"What makes me so excited about this event is the fact that it is much more than just a 10k, 5k, and one mile fun run race. There will be a strong military presence at this event, we will have someone singing our national anthem live, there is a fun run for the children, and the Jefferson Twp. Volunteer Fire Company is putting on a breakfast," she said.
"This event is not just for runners, it's for the entire public."
Runners can pre-register for the event online until midnight on Oct. 31 at www.neparunner.com or though the Facebook page Veterans Memorial Walk / Run. Pre-registration is $10 for the one-mile fun run, and $15 for the 5k walk/run or the 10k run. On race day, participants can register for $20 starting at 7:45 a.m.
A $5 breakfast will be served at the fire company for runners, their families, and the general public. Parking will be nearby, and all pre-race ceremonies, including the singing of the national anthem by Christi Myers, will occur at the fire company starting at 8:30 a.m.
In addition to a military presence during the opening ceremonies, Van Wert mentioned that the race will be filmed from the air using a GoPro video camera mounted on a radio-controlled quadcopter, and several military personnel plan to ruck march (carry fully-loaded backpacks) in uniform for the 10k race.