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A renewed purpose

Participants gather in Gig Harbor for annual prayer breakfast

Published: 11:23AM September 27th, 2012
A renewed purpose

Somer Breeze-Hanson

Former JBLM Soldier Armando Mejia, who now serves as fan development international outreach manager for the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders organizations, shares his story of being severely injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2008. Mejia , a purple heart recipient, served at JBLM from 2000 to 2008.

GIG HARBOR — Dana Ganaden knows the importance of community for military families.

The Army spouse is going through her husband’s sixth deployment with the 2nd Ranger Battalion from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Ganaden and more than 100 others formed a community to log each of the 6,700 miles they walk, run, swim and even push in strollers during the span of the deployment.

“It’s kept us connected,” Ganaden said. “Instead of our husbands leaving us behind, we’re going to our husbands.”

Ganaden joined an even larger community for the Second Annual Race for a Soldier Prayer Breakfast at the Hope Center in Gig Harbor Sept. 21.

The breakfast kicked off the Race for a Soldier Half Marathon weekend, with the race two days later. The half marathon was founded by Gig Harbor resident Leslie Mayne, to support organizations that offer alternative therapies to Soldiers returning from deployments and to help veterans transition back to civilian life.

Former and present Soldiers shared their personal testimonies to a sold-out attendance and faith-based music was performed during the two-hour event. One of the speakers was former JBLM Soldier Armando Mejia, who served at then Fort Lewis from 2000 to 2008. Mejia shared his experience of being severely injured by an improvised explosive device in 2004. The Purple Heart recipient medically retired and became active with a variety of organizations including Boys & Girls Clubs, Special Olympics, Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Military Kids.

“I couldn’t run or jog; I couldn’t do a lot of things,” Mejia said. “But I could coach. I could mentor.”

For the last year, Mejia has worked with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders organizations as their fan development international outreach manager. Mejia spoke of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s frequent use of the word compete.

“You have to strive forward,” Mejia said. “Yes I’m scarred, but that doesn’t stop me.”

Former JBLM Soldier Frank Hill spoke about the trauma he suffered after serving deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and then the 758th Forward Surgical Team. Hill suffered from post-traumatic stress as well as a traumatic brain injury. Hill chose writing as an alternative therapy to help him through the adversity. He shared a published piece, “In Mourning,” he wrote about a fallen Soldier in 2006.

Chaplain (Capt.) William C. Alley, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment chaplain in 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, encouraged the audience to reach out and begin relationships with service members to offer encouragement during the difficult times.

“When they were talking about community, it has connected all of us,” Ganaden said. “It’s a community to support one another, encourage one another and inspire ... it’s constantly looking outward and looking for something positive. I want to be a part of that.”

Ganaden, along with her friend, Jennifer Brooks, whose husbands are deployed together, ran in the half marathon, counting the combined 26 miles toward their goal of 6,700.