Relay For Life in Iraq

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"Indirect fire is a constant threat to the small base on the western outskirts of Baghdad, just south of Abu Ghurayb."

Excerpted from an article by 2LT PETER J. EULER
546th Transportation Company
Log Base Seitz

For soldiers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, free time is often hard to come by, and is usually reserved for the simple things in life — writing letters, talking on the phone, emailing friends and family, working out, and occasionally enjoying a nap.

But on May 28, over 140 soldiers from six units deployed to Log Base Seitz chose to sacrifice their spare time to conduct a Relay For Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The event raised over $4,300 for the American Cancer Society, with donations going to the local branches of the units stationed at Log Base Seitz [this includes the Fort Hood base in Killeen, Texas].

The event, the brainchild of 2LT Peter J. Euler of the 546th Transportation Company, was a result of over three months of planning.  MAJ Matt Bedwell, 169th CSB Executive Officer, and CPT Chad Wyancko, 169th CSB Staff Officer, supported 2LT Euler’s planning and preparations for the Relay For Life.

As for the reason to conduct a group run in Baghdad, it was quite simple to Euler, who has been involved in the Relay For Life the past three years in his hometown of Pittsburgh, KS.  "It is a great event for a great cause," he said.  "I didn’t want to take a year off due to circumstances."

Despite being in a war zone, soldiers showed up early Saturday morning.  They ran in unit formations and as individuals, undeterred by the potential for small arms fire, mortar and rocket attacks.  Indirect fire is a constant threat to the small base on the western outskirts of Baghdad, just south of Abu Ghurayb.

For this reason, some adjustments to the normal format had to be made.  The Relay For Life is usually conducted around a track.  Team members run, jog or walk anywhere from seven to 24 hours.

Instead, soldiers participated by running three laps around the inside perimeter of the base, a distance of approximately 3.6 miles. 

One of the more anticipated and moving parts of the event is the luminaria ceremony, in which participants take a break from the event shortly after dusk to honor those who survived or lost their battles with cancer.  That part had to be cut out for the safety of the soldiers.

Participants raised money either via online pledges or receiving pledges from friends, family and fellow soldiers within their company.

But the event wouldn’t have been successful without stateside support, including supplies donated from Courtney Fisher of the Killeen Relay and Linda Burney of the Comanche County Relay.  Every participant was provided with a t-shirt as well as a grab bag with miscellaneous giveaways.

"The soldiers really appreciated the t-shirts and the generosity of ACS," Major Bedwell said.  "The t-shirts gave the soldiers a feeling they were really involved in the national event.  They were a tangible link to the American Cancer Society and our communities back home."

"Our team of officers, NCOs and soldiers pulled together to execute an event under adverse conditions in support of a worthy cause," Bedwell added.  "That’s what it’s all about."

As for the idea, it may begin a trend.  According to Fisher, the 57th Signal Brigade, a unit that recently participated in the Killeen Relay For Life, is set to soon deploy to Iraq, and is planning on conducting a similar event during their tour of duty.

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