Story by Eusebio Collazo
I joined the Marine Corps in 2001. As a young man, I was very physically active and enjoyed challenging myself. I loved to run, exercise, and play sports, all which were reasons that motivated me to join the Marine Corps and serve my county.
On January 27, 2005 in Iraq, I suffered a cerebral contusion, diaphragmatic rupture, scalp laceration, fracture femur, and lobe liver laceration as a result of a mortar attack. Unfortunately, my injuries and pain discouraged me and held me back from continuing my active lifestyle. I especially missed being able to run.
Through psychological counseling and medical assistance from the great doctors and nurses at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, I am proud to say that I have been able to revive my passion for running. This mental and physical activity has been extremely therapeutic.
I have had a great experience with the Houston VA and received a lot of help from the doctors. In particular, Dr. Drew Helmer has been an amazing source of encouragement and great in assisting me with my medical needs. My Social Worker Cheryl Houlette has also been a big help in pointing me in the right direction when I need something at the VA. I think all the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) coordinators at the Post Deployment Clinic program do an excellent job.
With their encouragement, I got involved with the Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) organization. Team RWB’s vision is to transform the way wounded Veterans are reintegrated into society when they return from combat. One of the organization’s missions is to enrich the lives of wounded Veterans and their families through physical fitness. They look to rebuild the body, give structure to life and bolster self-esteem, help to process experiences from Iraq/Afghanistan, and connect with people to run, bike, workout, and be active.
I have become very active in the organization. Team RWB assigned a great leader and mentor, Chris Widell, to serve as my advocate. Cpt. Widell is a Veteran of the Iraq war; and for that reason, I feel we can relate on many things due to our similar experiences.
Team RWB and Cpt. Widell invited me to be a part of the American Odyssey Relay Race 2012. The race began in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and ended in Washington, D.C. It was a great weekend that brought back many memories of my years in the military because of the comradery we shared. In 36 hours with very little sleep, we finished the 200-mile relay run.
I am proud of this accomplishment, pleased to be a part of Team RWB, and excited to be able to do something positive and therapeutic that involves my passion for running.
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