NATICK, Mass. Veterans have often come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with invisible wounds of war that prevented them from truly reaching home safely.
To help get them there, the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program will hold its fifth annual Run to Home Base, presented by New Balance, Saturday at historic Fenway Park in Boston. More than 2,000 runners and walkers hundreds of active-duty military and military family members in their ranks will take part to raise funds and awareness for programs that support veterans and their families healing from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
The event has raised more than $9 million in its first four years to help support the one in three veterans who returns from deployment with either PTS or TBI.
Participants will either run nine kilometers or walk three miles in the event, which will come to a timed finish at the famed Green Monster in Fenways left field, followed by a photo finish crossing home plate.
Sergeant 1st Class Adam Morelli of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick Soldier Systms Center has run the event in the past and will be back Saturday. He has a special connection with Home Base: Last year, he sought treatment there for TBI.
I think that more emphasis needs to be put on getting the help that people need, and thats why I talk with my Soldiers, Morelli said. I dont make it a secret, because I want them to see that ... its still OK to go get the help that we need.
We can still be great Soldiers and do great things for the Army. I think that thats an important message.
As many as 100 slots remain open for participants to enter, which begins at 7:10 a.m. with the opening ceremony. The run/walk starts at 8 a.m. Runners must raise $1,000, walkers $250. Active service members may participate for a $50 entry fee with no fundraising requirement.
Fenway also will be open to the public Saturday morning. Free family activities include a military appreciation area, where fans make care packages for service members; 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series Trophies; photos with former Red Sox Luis Tiant and Sam Horn; Wally the Green Monster; self-guided tours; and veteran service exhibits. Concession stands will be open.
Home Base was the first program of its kind in the country offering care to veterans and anyone in their lives who might be part of the healing process. The program has helped more than 1,000 veterans and family members since 2009. Treatment is offered regardless of ability to pay or discharge status.
The Home Base program also has provided free training to more than 10,000 doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers nationwide about how to recognize and treat these invisible wounds.
For many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, coming home from a war zone hasnt been easy for them or their families, said Jack Hammond, retired brigadier general, Home Base Program executive director. The things we do every day, like getting a good nights sleep, going to a baseball game, driving in traffic, feeling connected to the people in our lives, have become a struggle for one in three returning veterans. Through care at Home Base, veterans and their families are recovering and getting their lives back.
Hammond, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, will toe the start line Saturday with other runners.
There is nothing else like the Run to Home Base, Hammond said. Its thrilling, inspiring. Youll have a lump in your throat to see thousands of service members, veterans and their families coming together and helping to heal the invisible wounds of war, post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
To register for the Run to Home Base, go to runtohomebase.org.