Clegg does his part to aid Green 5K
The men and women in uniform protecting our nation’s freedom throughout the world have plenty on their plate.
Organizing a 5K race usually isn’t part of their daily protocol.
For Sgt. William Clegg, it was something he made a priority.
Even though he’s stationed half a world away, the Ohio Valley is as close to his heart as the red, white and blue flag that adorns his uniform.
Home is always on his mind. His family, especially his wife, Miki, and son, Aidan, who’ll be 5 in September, are always on his mind. So are the many friends who are eagerly awaiting his return next month from his third tour of duty with the United States Army.
Ron Green is one of those friends.
Green is the driving force behind the annual Debbie Green 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia, which takes place this weekend on the streets of downtown Wheeling. The Green Mile is Friday night. Debbie’s Dash and the main event – the 5K run/walk – are Saturday.
Clegg wishes he could be there to aid the cause. Instead, he decided to do the next best thing – run in the race himself.
Yes, Clegg organized a version of the Green race in Afghanistan … in the middle of a war zone this past Sunday, at 7 a.m., with temperatures hovering near a sweltering 106 degrees.
”It wasn’t difficult,” Clegg said via telephone Wednesday from Bagram, Parvan, Afghanistan where he’s stationed with the 779th Engineering Company out of Parkersburg.
”We immediately took off with it.”
The ‘We’ references his fellow soldiers, who embraced the effort with open arms.
”I told them it was a race from my local area and it benefited children with leukemia,” Clegg explained. ”One of the guys there is from Pittsburgh, so he’d heard of it. Our squad leader is from Weirton, so he was familiar with it.”
His superiors were cool to the idea, too.
”They were really receptive to it and backed me 100 percent on it,” Clegg said.
The effort to raise funds overseas started one evening while Clegg was on Facebook and looking at Green’s page. That led to a thought about David Green, Ron Green’s late nephew.
”I remembered I’d went to school with Dave at Bishop (Donahue) and when he was in Iraq he’d ran it,” Clegg said. ”I think he passed away just before I came over here.”
Clegg’s been in Afghanistan for nine months. He previously served in Iraq, along with a short stint in Korea.
”I thought doing this would be a good way to remember Dave and help Ron and the Debbie Green cause.
”I just wanted to show everyone that even though we are over here, we still think about everyone over there.”
Logistics came together rather quickly. The course was situated close to where the soldiers are stationed.
”We had a loop right around where we live,” Clegg described. ”We did it four times.”
Wheeling’s hills present many challenges to local runners. The hills and climate of the Middle East are something all together different.
”It’s kind of hard to run at that altitude and that heat,” Clegg said. ”If you look at the guys in the pictures, they’re pretty sweaty.”
Yes, the conditions were difficult, but the cause was worth it.
”Everyone saw the reason behind the run,” Clegg said. ”I wanted to show my son that no matter where you are it’s always OK to care about where you come from.”
And home was certainly at the heart of this matter for Clegg.
”It’s something I didn’t have to do, but I wanted to do,” he said. ”I can’t imagine the fight those children have to go through and their families have to go through.
”I think what they do is easy compared with what we have to deal with.
”They’re the ones fighting. They’re the ones that are heroes.”
Thorp can be reached at email@example.com