Veteran greets racers at the finish line
WHEELING – Veterans returning home from combat duty are finding better treatment today than troops serving in the past, but their families are often overlooked while they are away, according to Sgt. Maj. Lee D. Bonar Jr.
Bonar, a Wheeling native and decorated Marine who now leads the III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group for the Pacific, was the guest speaker at the fourth-annual Veterans Day 10 Run/Walk Three Rivers USA Track and Field 10K Championship held Saturday morning in downtown Wheeling.
As each of the more than 200 veterans and 300 or so civilian racers crossed the finish line at 14th and Main streets, Bonar was there, standing in his full dress blues and shaking the hands of each runner. He thanked the troops for their service and the civilians for their participation. Proceeds from the race benefit the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Race Director Hugh Stobbs confirmed that Weirton resident Stewart Jones, 23, a Wheeling Jesuit University graduate and three-time All-American with record-breaking speed while at the university, was first to cross the finish line on Saturday with a time of 34 minutes and 59 seconds. The first female to finish was Sherri Martin, 51, of West Alexander, Pa., with a time of 42 minutes and 2 seconds.
In an emotional speech, Bonar told of the sacrifices military men and women undergo but noted their families can be just as stressed.
“When vets are deployed, they feel the stress of the job at hand and worry about their families at home. The families go through very emotional times … they watch the news and stress about whether their loved one is coming home,” Bonar said.
He said greater opportunities are beginning to be made available for returning troops and he urged corporate America to trust the American veterans.
“Veterans are used to a life of service. That’s what they know and love to do. So when they come back looking for a job, corporate America would do well to include them. They have a lot to offer,” Bonar explained.
He said some companies fear that troops are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome or other issues after combat. However, Bonar said veterans have many more and better opportunities for dealing with those concerns.
Each veteran who crossed the finish line had his or her personal reason for taking part Saturday. Timothy Zink served in the Air Force. Today he works with autistic children in Pittsburgh.
Mike Glow from New Martinsville spent 13 years in the Army and finished the race saying “It’s a good day.” Andrew Smith of Washington, Pa., and a student at WJU, was proud to finish the race and have his picture taken with Bonar.
And when veteran Michael Novotny of Wheeling saw a wheelchair veteran struggling on Wheeling Hill, he stepped up to help. His parents said that’s just how he is.
Bonar finished his speech by asking everyone to think of the military, current and veterans, this weekend, and to not forget their families in their prayers.