Erik's running the Marine Corps Marathon for TAPS
2016 was a very difficult time for myself and my family. Many of you are aware that I lost my mother after a horrendous battle with cancer in November. To aide in my grief, I had decided to take on competing a half iron man in July. It gave me the opportunity to reflect and process my grief and channel my emotions into something empowering. If my mother could withstand all the chemo, tubes, tests, and hospital stays, I could surely withstand 70.3 miles.
Unfortunately, I didn’t only lose my mother in 2016. I also lost my 21 year old cousin Mitchell in June. Mitchell was a Cadet at West Point and he was carrying out a military training exercise in Texas when a flash flood occurred. Coping with my mother’s failing health and death had taken away from being able to truly reflect on the tragic experience of losing my cousin, friend, and a kid I had so much respect for. What is most hard for me to wrap my head around, is the grief and sadness that my other cousin (his sister), and my aunt and uncle (his parents) must be enduring. Losing a parent, however hard it is, is expected at some point. Losing your 21-year old brother and son is something no person expects or is equipt to deal with.
As I watched my family mourn and cope with this loss, I started to notice the immense support network that grew and rallied around them. The amount of people touched by this tragedy and so many other deaths just like it is more far reaching then I'd ever imagine. And to know that my family had the opportunity to heal with people in the same situation has given me comfort knowing they aren’t alone, as well as being able to meet these people and take support from them as well.
This support network is made possible by organizations like TAPS (Tragedy assistance programs for Survivors). TAPS offers compassionate care to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the Armed Forces. They've been able to provide assistance to some 70,000 families since 1994. I was asked by my cousin to take part in the Marine Corps Marathon on October 22nd with her on behalf of the TAPS organization in honor of her brother and was unable to say no. A few months of tired legs pales in comparison to the true pain and suffering that I hope I can help bring awareness to.
As with any non-profit, awareness is only half the battle. Funding is the key to keep programs like these successful and able to continue to help the people who need it most. If you taken the time to read my story, I ask you to take the time to donate as well. These donations will help give people a chance to celebrate the memories of their loved ones that passed on while serving for the United States.
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