Honoring Our Fallen Through Triathlon

By Amy Cotta | Feb. 10, 2015, 4:14 p.m. (ET)
My journey to become a triathlete didn’t start off like most. I’m not a natural-born athlete; triathlon always was seemed like an impossible dream. You see, I didn’t grow up swimming. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 39 years old (it’s amazing how quickly you learn when you purposefully jump in a lake). I had dared myself to learn in order to do the Iron Girl Las Vegas Olympic-distance race for several family members who were diagnosed with cancer. I’m not an elite cyclist; I’m slow as molasses running up a tree. And running? Let’s put it this way: I have two speeds; walk and shuffle. I would like to say I’m slow because I run in combat boots. But in all honesty I would be just as slow in running shoes.

amy cottaSo if all the cards are stacked against me, why do I do triathlons? Why do I put myself deep into the hurt locker, day after day in order to compete in IRONMAN length triathlons? It’s simple. I move for a reason. #iMoveFor our military. In 2011 my oldest son left straight from high school to the Marines. I saw firsthand the uncertainty that comes with military life. I was proud of his life choice, but that choice also came with a massive amount of fear and separation anxiety. I decided to use the pain I felt as an outlet to not only heal myself but later to help bring peace to others by honoring their soldiers.

While Tyler was in boot camp, I started walking everywhere I went in USMC combat boots. That led to running my first 5k in them, then a half-marathon (all without training), and then I added a pack and longer races. Since 2011, I have completed over 27 events in my boots. Everything from 5k to 50k, sprint triathlons to IRONMAN 140.6 all to raise money and awareness for the many needs of our military including those lost at war.

I TRI for all the families who will be putting their child to bed tonight without their spouse and for every child who will grow up without their father or mother. I move for parents who’ve had to lay their son or daughter to rest in service to their country. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, approximately 7,000 American service members have been killed in action. Additionally, thousands of non-combat deaths have occurred. Each man or woman we lost has a name. Each served and sacrificed bravely. Each had hopes and dreams for the future. Each still has people who desperately love them. As the mother of a United States Marine, I know that all of us who have loved ones serving in the military share two common fears: We not only fear the loss of their lives, but also their service, sacrifice and the memory of their lives will be forgotten. It was out of these experiences that I felt compelled to start Medals of Honor, an awareness project established to honor fallen soldiers and the families they leave behind.

Medals of Honor gives the endurance race community a tangible way to remember, thank and give back to the families who lost loved ones while serving in our military. Through this campaign, racers can compete in honor of a fallen U.S hero and donate their finisher’s medal to the surviving family. The medals act as a symbol of bravery, courage, and remembrance. As a predominantly self-funded nonprofit we do not seek monetary donations from racers or military families. Our only request is that racers sacrifice their hard-earned medals to honor the service, sacrifice and memory of a fallen hero. It’s that simple.

Registering to Race For a Hero

1. Register via our website: medalsofhonor.org

2. Once registered, you’ll receive a welcome email.

3. Email us before your event and we will give you the name of a fallen hero to honor at your event.

4. Decide how you want to display your hero’s name. You can download the PDF sign or race bib and write your hero’s name on it. You can make a yellow ribbon containing their name and pin it to your person or gear. Or you could order a nametape or dog tag from U.S. Patriot Tactical in your hero’s name and display it during your event.

5. Once your event is complete, mail us your medal. We will repackage it along with a handwritten note to the surviving family including information on your event.

Thank you for the passion and commitment you bring to the endurance race community. As you consider sharing your medal(s) with the family of a fallen soldier, know that your act of generosity will serve as a visual reminder that no soldier gets left behind.

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