Our basketball team participated in a 9/11 Heroes Run in downtown Bangor on Sunday, a 5K race organized to benefit victims of 9/11 and wounded veterans and heroes who are first responders in this country.  The proceeds helped benefit the Travis Manion Foundation.  You can read more about Travis below and visit the website: http://www.travismanion.org

“1st Lt. Travis Manion made the ultimate sacrifice in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. He, his fellow Marines, and Iraqi Army counterparts were ambushed while searching a suspected insurgent house. 1st Lt. Manion led the counterattack against the enemy forces. He was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded comrades. His selfless actions allowed every member of his patrol to survive. For his actions, he was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star with Valor.”

As always seems to happen with these events, you start by thinking our program can do a small part to help a great cause, and when it’s over you feel like they have helped you more than you could ever help them.  Travis’ mother started the race by telling us Travis’ story and by thanking everyone for participating.  And your sitting there going, “really, she is thanking us???”

Our team and staff all ran the race, a 5K path through the streets of Bangor that started and ended at the Waterfront.  The energy and the camaraderie that you feel during the race was really cool.  People cheering you on, and people running the race telling you “Good job” and “Keep it up” as you are running along with them.  When you see a group of Army Reserves all running together, or guys with Bangor Fire Department shirts on running with you, and you think about 9/11 and how many people were affected by it, it’s hard not to be inspired.

I happened to run with a guy who was very vocal throughout the race, and we were next to each other for just about all of the 5 kilometers.  He was thanking all of the volunteers who were on the streets directing the runners, as well as the kids who were giving out water to participants.  He was thanking the cops who were on the corners and at the lights to stop traffic so the runners could continue safely.  I could tell right away that he had to be involved in the organization – he was running, but he was so invested and knew everyone involved at every turn.  He was also running at a pretty good pace, so it was fun to try and keep up with him.

I had a Maine Basketball T-shirt on and when we finished he came up and introduced himself by saying “I actually have 3 degrees from the University of Maine.”

He told me he has 3 degrees from the University of Maine.  He started college when he was 40 years old, and was able to pay for it through the GI bill.  He had been in the service and hadn’t gone to college right out of high school.  After serving in the military, he finished his undergraduate degree in less than 4 years, and went on to get two master’s degrees from UMaine.  Oh, and he’s in the process of getting his doctorate from UMaine as well.

As we kept talking, he mentioned he was a wounded warrior himself.  After thanking him for his service, he showed us the burns you can still see on his legs, arms and neck.  He said he was unable to walk or talk for a year and a half.  Without getting into too much detail, he talked about how much support he has had to be able to get to where he is today.  He runs these events a lot – and runs them well by the way.   He’s 52 years old and he finished in the top 10 of this 5K, running it in just under 21 minutes.  He told us he ran a half-marathon last year and completed it in less than 2 hours.  For a 52 year-old wounded veteran, that’s pretty inspirational stuff.

Perspective is such an interesting thing.  We all get locked into our own little world at some point and we think about the stress, the negatives, the stuff we have to deal with.  It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Participating in this run really gave us a fresh perspective.

We’ll face plenty of challenges as we build our basketball team at the University of Maine.  But what we think of as tough really doesn’t compare in the big picture.  I was reminded again this morning how lucky I am to have the opportunity to coach at UMaine.  I hope our players were reminded how lucky they are to have a chance to go to college, get a great degree, and play college basketball while they do it.

So we show up with our team at the Bangor Waterfront this morning thinking we are doing a small part to help out, and when it’s over you realize they’ve done more for us than we could possibly do for them.  I was lucky enough to meet a true hero today.  It was an honor to meet him and a day I won’t soon forget.  Today had an impact on our whole program and will really help us keep things in perspective as we face the challenges of a long season together.

ABC/Fox in Bangor did a nice story on the event: http://www.foxbangor.com/news/local-news/6393-heroes-5k-run.html

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