Here's how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

If you plan to ring in the new year with resolutions of becoming a healthier you, what a better way to stick to that commitment than to sign up for the 24th Annual Air Force Marathon. Registration opens Jan. 1, 2020, at midnight, offering the lowest prices of the year with a New Year’s resolution special.

“Last year we made a significant overhaul of the course, added a kids race, and more entertainment and displays throughout the course,” said Brandon Hough, Air Force Marathon race director. “Based on the feedback, runners had a great experience so we hope to continue to make the Air Force Marathon bigger and better every year.”


After a successful turnout of the first kids run last year, the Tailwind Trot for children ages 4-12 will return and due to its popularity, the number of registrations will increase. In addition, the Fly! Flight! Win! Challenge will again offer the option to run either the half or full marathon along with the 5K and 10K run to receive the special finisher medal.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

(U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

New in 2020, a “virtual marathon” option will be available to allow runners from all over the world to join in from afar.

“We have airmen all over the world who want to be involved in this incredible annual tradition, but due to deployments, temporary duty assignments, remote assignments and a host of other reasons, they are not able to join us,” Hough said. “Adding a virtual option allows them to challenge themselves while taking part in the annual celebration of the Air Force Marathon.”

Participants can choose between the virtual half or full marathon and will need to run their selected distance between Sept.12-27 next year. Once runners submit proof of their accomplishment, they will then receive their finisher medal and race shirt. The virtual marathon option is open to all runners.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Libecap)

Registration prices will increase throughout the year leading up to the Air Force Marathon on Sept. 19. The New Year’s resolution special will be valid through Jan. 3, and prices are as follows:

Distance / Price
Marathon /
Half Marathon /
10K /
5K /
Tailwind Trot /
Challenge Series / 0

Military, including reservists and guardsmen, can receive off registration for the full, half and challenge races or off the 5K or 10K runs.

Runners can register at www.usafmarathon.com by clicking the registration tab.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

It’s NFL Draft Weekend! Besides the excitement of seeing our favorite college athletes make it to the pros, we also get to learn about the players themselves and their stories.

One of my favorite stories comes from the 1995 NFL Draft. It’s about a player who was drafted that didn’t even like football, but used his talent in the sport to help others. It’s a great message that has application outside professional football.


When Curtis Martin was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2012, he shared something with the crowd. Even though he was now a Hall of Fame running back, he wasn’t a fan of the game — matter of fact he didn’t even like football or running. At first glance, you might think he wasted valuable years of his life doing something he didn’t like, but in reality it was the opposite. He spent his NFL career playing for a purpose. Playing football helped him achieve his “Why,” which was to help others.

In the book “Die Empty,” author Todd Henry writes, “In [Martin’s] rookie season with the Patriots, [he] began committing a minimum of 12% of his paycheck to his newly formed Job Foundation, which he formed to help single mothers and disadvantaged youth.” He kept with football because it gave him a platform to help his mother and other people who struggled to help themselves. During his acceptance speech, Hall said the following:

Most of these guys have lived for the game of football and eat, breath, sleep football. I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football. I can remember draft day like it was yesterday. My family and I were sitting around and were watching the draft. The phone rings and it’s Bill Parcells. I answer the phone and say, “Hello,” and Parcells says, “Curtis, we want to know if you’re interested in being a New England Patriot?” I said, “Yes, yes, sir.” And we hang up the phone. As soon as we hang up the phone I turn around to everyone and I said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to play football.”

No, you’re laughing, but this is the truth. I turned around and said, “I don’t want to play football. I don’t even know that I like football enough to try to make a career out of it.” My pastor at the time was a guy by the name of Leroy Joseph, and I’m so glad he was there to talk some sense into me. He says, “Curtis, look at it this way, man.” He said, “Maybe football is just something that God is giving you to do all those wonderful things that you say you want to do for other people.” I tell you, it was like a light bulb came on in my head.

That became my connection with football. I don’t know if he wouldn’t have said that to me if football would have gotten out of me what it got out of me. I definitely wouldn’t be standing here. And ever since he said that, I knew the only way I was going to be successful at this game called football is if I played for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.

His story illustrates the importance of connecting our lives to a higher purpose and understanding our “Why.” By knowing that he wanted to help people, Martin took a career path that gave him a stage to potentially help far more people than he might have otherwise. His purpose motivated him to play at a level greater than that of other players.

When we follow Martin’s example, and make that connection between action and purpose, our performance will always be better than if those two are disconnected. It will also give us fulfillment, something that many of us spend our entire lives chasing. Martin’s connection not only let him help others, it led him to the NFL Hall of Fame.

As you watch the Draft this weekend, pay attention to the stories. You never know, you might hear one like Martin’s and it could change your life.

For another great story about this year’s draft, watch:

MIGHTY SPORTS

5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the US military

Plenty of professional athletes have served in the military, but an even smaller number of sports aficionados have seen real combat or performed heroic deeds while in uniform. These are five examples:


1. Medal of Honor recipient Jack Lummus told the field doctor “the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today” before he died. 

 

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

 

He had a promising career ahead of him in the NFL with the New York Giants, but Jack Lummus answered the call to serve his nation during World War II. What a great sport. Even before his rookie season with the Giants, Lummus tried to drop out of school at Baylor to join the Army Air Corps as a pilot, but he failed.

He later joined the Giants and played in nine games, including the championship game against the Chicago Bears. The Giants lost the game 37-9, and afterward, Lummus joined the Marine Corps Reserve and worked his way up to second lieutenant, according to The Washington Times.

The Times has more:

In the book, “Iwo Jima,” author Richard F. Newcomb detailed the heroics of the former NFL rookie end, who led a unit in battle against the enemy despite suffering injuries from grenade blasts. As he led his troops against enemy positions, “suddenly he was at the center of a powerful explosion, obscured by flying rock and dirt. As it cleared, his men saw him rising as if in a hole. A land mine had blown off both his legs that had carried him to football honors at Baylor.

Lummus was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism. Before he died, he told the field doctor, “Well, doc, the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today,” according to NBC Sports.

2. Tom Landry flew 30 combat missions in a B-17 bomber during World War II while playing sports.

Tom Landry is considered one of the greatest professional football coaches in NFL history, but before his innovative contributions to the world of football, he was a co-pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress. After playing football in the 1942 season, he joined the Army Air Forces and was later assigned to the 8th Air Force.

Landry served in 30 combat missions in the skies over Europe and also survived a crash landing, according to NBC Sports.

3. Bob Feller was the first Major League baseball player to volunteer for active duty, just two days after the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

 

Cleveland Indians All-Star pitcher Bob Feller began the trend of professional players giving up their careers in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec.7, 1941. Just two days after the attack, Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

“I was on my way to meet with the general manager of the Cleveland Indians to sign my 1942 contract the day of Pearl Harbor,” he told ESPN. “It was about noon; I had the radio on in the car and had just crossed the river into Quad Cities when I got the news. That was it.”

Feller served on the USS Alabama until 1945 when he was discharged as a Chief Petty Officer. He saw combat in the Pacific, most notably during what he told ESPN was the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

“We shot down over 470 Japanese airplanes in one day [June 19, 1944]. And that was the end of the Japanese Naval Air Force.” He is still remembered fondly in his sport.

4. Baseball legend Ted Williams gave up four years of his major league sports career while serving as a Marine pilot in World War II and Korea.

 

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Ted Williams had already cemented his place in baseball lore with the “finest rookie year in baseball history” in 1939, but it wouldn’t be long before the legendary hitter did his duty in the military. After the 1942 season, Williams joined the Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant, but by the time his flight training was finished, much of the air combat was over as well.

He spent much of his time during World War II training for war, and then training others, but he would later be called back to serve in Korea. It was there while serving with the 1st Marine Air Wing that Williams would have a number of brushes with death.

“Once, he was on fire and had to belly land the plane back in,” his friend and fellow pilot John Glenn told MLB.com. “He slid it in on the belly. It came up the runway about 1,500 feet before he was able to jump out and run off the wingtip. Another time he was hit in the wingtip tank when I was flying with him. So he was a very active combat pilot, and he was an excellent pilot and I give him a lot of credit.”

Williams returned to baseball once again in 1953 — this time to a hero’s welcome. But he maintained an attitude of modesty.

“Everybody tries to make a hero out of me over the Korean thing. I was no hero,” Williams wrote in his biography. “There were maybe 75 pilots in our two squadrons and 99 percent of them did a better job than I did. But I liked flying. It was the second-best thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn’t had baseball to come back to, I might have gone on as a Marine pilot.”

5. Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative NFL career to become a U.S. Army Ranger.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

 

Having been selected in the 1998 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Pat Tillman was three years into a lucrative career in pro football when the 9/11 attacks occurred. He finished the 2001 season and then enlisted in the U.S. Army with his younger brother Kevin, according to Biography.

“At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed,” he told a reporter a day after the attacks, according to The Pat Tillman Foundation. “A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”

Both Pat and his brother deployed to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2004 as Rangers with the 75th Ranger Regiment. During an ambush in a canyon on the evening of April 22, 2004, Tillman was killed by friendly-fire after his unit mistook an Afghan soldier near him as an insurgent and opened fire, according to ESPN. While he wasn’t able to return to his beloved sport, the NFL will never forget him.

 

MIGHTY SPORTS

Black Knights use Army-Navy uniform to tell story of division

When the players on the Army West Point football team take the field, they do so for more than themselves.

They represent the U.S. Military Academy and the generations of graduates who make up the Long Gray Line. They play for the U.S. Army and those who have fought and died protecting America. And each week during the season, they play for a particular division of the Army and the soldiers currently serving and who have served in it.

For most of the regular season, the division is honored by a patch on the back of the players’ helmets. But for the past three years during the Army-Navy Game, the Black Knights have honored one of the Army’s divisions by wearing an entire uniform telling the division’s story.


The new uniform tradition started with a design telling the story of the 82nd Airborne Division. So far, the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division have also been honored.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.

(Danny Wild, USA Today)

This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.

The 1st Cav’s role as the honored division was kept secret until the uniform was unveiled Dec. 5, 2019, in front of the assembled Corps of Cadets, but the process of designing the uniform for the game each year is an 18-month collaboration between Nike and West Point’s Department of History.

The cycle of divisions is decided three to four years in advance by West Point’s Athletic Department, and each design process starts about a year and a half out from the game. This year’s uniform hasn’t been unveiled yet, but most of the work is already done on 2020’s uniform and the process for 2021 will start to ramp up in the near future.

After the division is selected, step one of the process is determining the timeline that will be honored. For the 82nd Airborne it was World War II and for the 1st Infantry Division they highlighted World War I for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.

Then, Nike’s designer in partnership with the USMA history department starts doing research and crafting the story the uniform will tell.

“It is almost like a method actor preparing for a role,” Kristy Lauzonis, senior graphic designer for Nike college football uniforms, said. “I just go as deep as humanly possible with the research. I order books, read everything I can under the sun and then that is when I start hitting the history department back with all kinds of crazy questions.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

In 2017 Army represented the 10th Mountain Division with its Army Navy uniform.

(Photo by Cadet Henry Guerra)

With help from the Department of History, Lauzonis goes through photos and artifacts of the unit from the chosen timeline and starts working to craft a uniform that will authentically tell the story of the unit. Some elements are predetermined by NCAA rules such as whether the uniform is light or dark depending on if Army is home or away, but everything from colors of elements to fonts are built from scratch in order to make them historically accurate.

On the first uniform, the flag on the players’ shoulder may have looked backward to a casual observer, but it was placed the way it was worn in World War II. On the 10th Mountain Uniform, the popular Pando Commando logo wasn’t something created by Nike, but was instead a little used logo found during the research process. On last year’s uniforms, the Black Lions were to tell the story of the 28th Infantry Regiment and the first major combat for American forces in World War I.

“I think one of the great things about being authentic to history is you will have those moments like where you’ve done something where it is 100% authentic and people aren’t aware of it,” Lauzonis said. “That is that bonus element where everyone is saying the flag is backward and we are able to say it pre-existed flag code and this is exactly how it was worn on the uniform and we purposely did it that way. It is not just a company woops we flipped the flag the wrong way. We are never going to do that.”

Throughout the entire process, the USMA history department is fact checking elements on the uniform and making sure they accurately represent the division’s history and the timeline being depicted. That includes checking colors such as the red used in last year’s Big Red One on the helmet and making sure each insignia used is authentic and historically accurate.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

In 2016 the Black Knights honored the 82nd Airborne Division.

(US Army photo)

“We provide historical context and then of course, the Nike designers are amazing,” Steve Waddell, an assistant professor in the Department of History, said. “They’ve got to kind of translate a historical idea concept to actually make it work on a real uniform and have the color contrasts and everything work … I’m a World War II historian and we did the 82nd Airborne for the first one. It’s just exciting that they’re tying the sport of football to military history and military history is always popular.”

Along with assisting in the uniform design, the USMA history department helps tell the story of the uniform and the division through the athletic department’s microsite, which is created as part of the unveil each year.

There the elements of the uniform are explained, and the story of the division is told in detail.

“The Army’s business is people,” Capt. Alexander Humes, an instructor in the Department of History, said. “That’s why it’s also important to tell the story of this unit and the people that were part of this unit and to take this as an opportunity to do that. This presents the Army a great opportunity in something as highly visible as the Army-Navy Game to be able to tell its story to the American public.”

This year’s uniform pulls elements from the 1st Cav’s Vietnam War era uniforms and the pants were designed to resemble the motif of the UH-1 “Hueys” the soldiers flew during the war.

“I hope that for the folks that are in or have a relationship to the unit, that they feel like their story is being told authentically,” Lauzonis said of her goal when designing the uniform each year. “That they feel like they now have something they can wear with pride and that we’ve done right by them with the storytelling.”

The annual rivalry game against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis will take place Dec. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

After Action Report #2: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being a tough as nails sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its second week and fantasy football fans continue to debate advanced metrics, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.

This week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”

A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?


This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.

Here are this week’s picks:

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

(NFL YouTube)

Defensive Back Prince Amukamara — Chicago Bears

Defensive Back Prince Amukamara and his first career pick-six.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

(NFL YouTube)

Safety Shawn Williams — Cincinnati Bengals

Safety Shawn Williams strip sacks Quarterback Joe Flacco.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

(NFL YouTube)

Quarterback Dak Prescott — Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback Dak Prescott completes a touchdown pass.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Geronimo Allison — Green Bay Packers

Wide Receiver Geronimo Allison blocks a kick against the Minnesota Vikings.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Keelan Cole — Jacksonville Jaguars

Wide Receiver Keelan Cole completes a one-handed catch

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL’s most generous legend gives homeless veterans a new life

1977 was a big year for Chicago’s Walter Payton. After two years in the NFL, he was the league’s leading rusher and was selected to play in the 1977 Pro Bowl, where he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. His on-the-field performance turned the struggling Bears franchise around, but his off-the-field performance would earn him the NFL’s Man of the Year Award, an honor that would later bear his name.


Throughout his 13-year career, Payton was an exceptional member of his team, the example by which all team members should follow – in any kind of group, setting, or sport. He only missed one game in that entire span and, despite being the league’s premier running back, he was able to do anything the team asked of him, throwing eight touchdown passes and even setting a game rushing record with a 101-degree fever.

Heck, he wanted to kick,” Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka told ESPN. “We wouldn’t let him kick.”
Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

“Never Die Easy” was Walter Payton’s motto.

(NFL)

But it wasn’t his football performance that prompted the NFL to name its prestigious award after him. What he did in his spare time left a legacy of humanitarianism and generosity that prompts NFL players to use their high earnings to good works within their local communities to this day.

As a young black man in Mississippi, Payton helped integrate his local high school and its football team. From there, he would go on to play at tiny Jackson State University, but his determination at running back caught the NFL’s eye, earning him his spot in the 1975 NFL draft. He didn’t make waves in his first season with the Bears, but he would soon be one Chicago’s — and professional football’s — most legendary athletes.

He founded the Walter Connie Payton Foundation to give back to the city that gave him so much. Though Payton died of a rare liver disorder that led to bile duct cancer, his legacy lives on through his foundation.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Walter Payton with beneficiaries of his foundation’s support.

What began as an effort to help Chicago’s children now includes Chicago’s homeless veteran population. The foundation works with the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community in providing veterans with everything they need to live with dignity and pride.

Concord Place Assisted Living is a 55-and-older community, but homeless veterans can live there thanks to Walter and Connie Payton’s foundation. The new homes include food, health care, and physical activities. It keeps them off the cold streets of Chicago while offering them a chance to build new lives. The project is so close to the foundation’s heart that 100 percent of donations for vets will go to the project.

The foundation is now run by Payton’s widow, Connie, to whom he was married for 23 years.

I had no idea how many veterans had no place to go,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “They serve us knowing there might be a chance that they’ll never come home. … I wanted to find a way to do something to help.”

They turned the entire 15th floor of the assisted living community into veteran housing. A mere ,500 funds a room for a vet, complete with bed, TV, food, health care – the works. Once the 15th floor was filled, they started on the 14th. The foundation continues to fund the rooms using its other charitable works.

[Walter] was a kind, genuine person, and the foundation was important to him,” Payton said. “We always felt that when you’ve been blessed, why not learn to give back to other people and bless them, and hopefully someday they can bless someone else.
Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Walter and Connie Payton Foundation President Connie Payton oversee the renovation of the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community.

(WLS ABC 7 Chicago)

Today, the NFL’s Man of the Year Award is named for Payton, honoring players who display Walter Payton-level excellence in every aspect of their lives. The award for 2017 went to the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, an outstanding defender who raised million for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The frontrunners for the 2018 award are the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and Robbie Gould of the San Francisco 49ers.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army experts offer advice for reducing training injuries

One of the challenges facing Army leadership as they transition to the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be fully implemented by October 2020, is preventing musculoskeletal training injuries. Physical training is necessary to develop and maintain the fitness required to accomplish military missions, but is also known to cause injury.

According to Army Public Health Center experts, MSK injuries and related conditions led to an average of 37 limited duty days per injury. This translates to 2 million medical encounters across the Army annually and an estimated 10 million lost training days due to limited duty.

“Seventy percent of all limited duty profiles are for MSK injuries,” said Dr. Michelle Chervak, acting manager for the APHC Injury Prevention Program, which identifies causes and risk factors for Army training-related injuries. “We can show that greater amounts of training (for example, of running or road marching) result in more injuries. Civilian data show us that there are levels of training above which injury rates increase, but fitness does not improve — two signs of overtraining.”


Dr. Bruce Jones, senior scientist, APHC Clinical Public Health and Epidemiology Directorate, explained further that part of the problem for the Army is that the thresholds of training above which injury rates increase and fitness does not have not been established. However, commanders have the information necessary to make decisions about the thresholds — they know the amount of training, physical fitness of their soldiers, and the number of soldiers on profile.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

This infograph offers several tips for leaders to help their soldiers avoid MSK injuries.

“What we need to provide commanders are the general principles of training injury prevention; and an understanding of the relationships between training, fitness, and injuries,” said Jones. “They have to determine the risk of injury they are willing to accept.”

APHC Injury Prevention is working on updating financial and readiness costs to the Army due to MSK injuries.

“At this time, the only formal cost estimate that we have comes from a National Safety Council report for the Secretary of Defense,” said Chervak. “That report stated the annual costs ranged from -20 billion (2001 data). Roughly 40 percent of all injuries across the Department of Defense occur to Army personnel, so the Army costs are approximately .8-8 billion.”

The 2018 Health of the Force report highlights a previous Army success in reducing injury by changing its approach to fitness training.

In 2003, the Army evaluated a new standardized physical training program designed to enhance fitness while minimizing injuries through avoidance of overtraining. An evaluation group implemented the new standardized program and a comparison group conducted traditional PT (running, calisthenics, push-ups, and sit-ups). After nine weeks of basic combat training, the evaluation group had fewer injuries and a higher APFT pass rate.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Army Physical Fitness Test at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition.

The modified program reduced the total miles run by trainees, conducted distance runs by ability groups, added speed drills, executed warm-up exercises instead of pre-exercise stretching, progressed training amount and intensity gradually, and provided a wider variety of exercises.

In 2004, the new standardized PT program based on this evaluated program was mandated for all BCT units across the Army. It was also incorporated into Army physical training doctrine. From 2003 to 2013, a 46 percent decrease in all injuries and a 54 percent decrease in lower extremity overuse injuries among Army trainees was observed.

Jones recommends a five-step public health approach as the most effective construct for Army public health to organize and build an injury prevention program. Steps include surveillance to define the magnitude of the problem, research and field investigations to identify causes and risk factors, intervention trials and systematic reviews to determine what works to address leading risk factors, program and policy implementation to execute prevention, and program evaluation to assess effectiveness.

Jones also notes that both overweight and underweight soldiers who are the least physically fit are at the highest risk for injury compared to their most fit peers.

“The highest risks occur among the most underweight (leanest), least physically fit (slowest run times) men and women in basic training,” said Jones. “This is probably because underweight soldiers lack the muscle mass necessary to perform soldiers tasks and withstand the vigorous physical activity required.”

Injury risks are also 20 to 50 percent higher for soldiers who smoke cigarettes.

“A variety of hypotheses explain this relationship; the most feasible is that smokers have a reduced ability to heal following injury,” said Chervak. “Overuse injuries result from an inability to repair damage due to daily training; smokers repair that cumulative microtrauma less rapidly.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Hebel, assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, performs sit-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at Joint Multinational Training Command Best Warrior Competition at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 8, 2013.

(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

APHC is currently piloting a program through the Army Wellness Center at Fort Campbell focused on identifying soldiers at highest injury risk based on APFT run time, the leading predictor of active-duty Army injury risk.

APHC is working with specific units and the Fort Campbell Community Ready and Resilient Council to identify soldiers who meet the criteria for referral (men: run time slower than 15 minutes; women: run time slower than 19 minutes), said Chervak. These soldiers are offered AWC fitness assessments to assist with improving aerobic fitness, physical activity, sleep, and body composition.

“AWC education efforts focus on physical activity, sleep, nutrition (weight loss), and tobacco cessation; all factors that influence injury risk,” said Chervak. “There is a natural partnership with APHC’s Health Promotion and Wellness directorate. Key avenues of influence are Performance Triad-related communications and referral of high risk soldiers to the AWCs.”

Jones said the most important step forward is for leadership to recognize that training-related injuries are a problem and they can be prevented.

“Commanders need to recognize that there are no magic bullets,” said Jones. “Training causes injuries and modifications of training will prevent injuries. Commanders have the information to monitor injuries and fitness, and modify training to prevent injuries. We still need to determine the thresholds of training by unit at which injuries increase, but fitness does not improve.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Navy’s 2018 Army-Navy Game smack video just dropped

The Midshipmen-turned-video-content-producers (who also happen to be Navy officers) just churned out the next iteration of their “Go Navy Beat Army” saga. From the minds who brought you classics, like We Give A Ship and Helm Yeah, comes their newest production: SPACE FORCE.


Naval Officer Rylan Tuohy graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 2016. In his time as a Mid, he produced a couple of Navy’s most appreciated Army-Navy Game traditions, the Navy spirit video. In the past, he’s had special guests like Sen. John McCain, Adm. John Richardson, Roger Staubach, and even the U.S. Navy Blue Angels appear in his annual troll on the U.S. Military Academy.

This year he’s featuring the U.S. Space Force.

The video starts as a kind of recruiting video for the newly-christened U.S. Space Force, but takes a dramatic turn in order to take a shot at the Army. We watch as a Space Force pilot wakes up from the “bad dream” of reenlisting in the Army.

Not to be outdone, Army’s own efforts at video-based smacktalk have increased dramatically over the years. Their response to Tuohy’s 2016 “We Give A Ship” video was their own wordplay-laden video, “We Don’t Give A Ship, We Give A Truck.” Even better was its response to Tuohy and Navy’s 2017 “Helm Yeah” video, a highly-produced, 10-minute short film on West Point’s Facebook Page, called “Lead From The Front.”

Filmed in 4K, the video featured then-Commandant of the U.S. Military Academy Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, and trolled all of Navy’s athletics, their uniforms, cadets, and their fanbase. It also talked smack about the Midshipmen’s own smack-talk videos.

Lead From the Front will probably go down as the premiere video about how the Black Knights might kidnap Navy’s mascot using the full power of the U.S. Army. It was produced by then-cadet Austin Lachance (who is now an officer) and was complete with special effects, helicopters, and a soundtrack produced by the West Point Band.

There’s no word yet on how Army might respond to this year’s Space Force jab.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Competition pits brother against brother

When Lt. Col. Eric Palicia saw a flyer for an Alpha Warrior qualifier in May 2019, he decided to throw his name in the hat for a chance to go head to head with last year’s overall winner — his younger brother.

In this year’s Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, soldiers, airmen, and sailors completed more than a dozen obstacles that tested their strength, agility and endurance, in a timed race Sept. 14, 2019, in San Antonio.


“I thought, ‘if I could earn a slot, I could compete against my brother,'” said the U.S. Army Europe headquarters engineer, who went on to surprise himself when he passed two more rounds of qualifiers to make it to the competition.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

Palicia earned the top spot among Army competitors and second place overall — right behind his brother, Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia.

Eric Palicia credits bodyweight exercises and running for his success in preparing for the competition.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

“You have to have endurance,” he said. “Cardiovascular fitness is the cornerstone of everything I’ve ever done athletically my whole life.”

Despite that, Palicia said the wins had little to do with him and much more to do with being a positive example.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

“Before the competition started, there were 60 brand new enlistees who did their oath,” he said. “All their families came out, and we had a chance to talk to them, and they asked us what we’d done so far in the military. If they can look at me and see what we’ve done, the whole swath of ranks and ages and everybody gets along, right off the bat those 60 sons and daughters see the organization they’re going into. They see all of us together doing this competition — there’s no ego or animosity. We’re all in it together.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia holds a medicine ball over his head during a strength challenge at the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, while a crowd cheers him on at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Debbie Aragon)

Next up for Palicia is the Army 10-miler, Oct. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Palicia said he feels lucky to be supported in his fitness endeavors.

“It’s wonderful to be a part of a command climate that realizes the importance of a competition like this and the importance of leaders doing it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Soldier-athletes win the 35th annual Army Ten-Miler

After a 10 mile run trailing around national monuments in Washington, D.C., Spc. Lawi Lalang, from Fort Carson, a member of the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, crossed the finish line with a time of 48:38, making him the men’s champion of the 2019 Army Ten Miler. Spc. Elvin Kibet, also a member of the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, earned first in the women division with a time of 54:05.

“It was so great out there, I have no words to describe how I am feeling,” said Kibet, a soldier-athlete in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program “I had soldiers cheering me on, it was like no race I have ever done before.”

An All-Army Ten-Miler team soldier-athlete has won the Army Ten-Miler every year since 2015.


Lalang, a horizontal construction engineer, kept a mile pace of 4:51 during his first ever Army-Ten Miler.

“Spc. Benard Keter and I started with a pretty fast pace,” said Lalang. “At mile seven I pushed it a little bit more and that’s when I knew I had it. I won this race for the Army.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Spc. Elvin Kibet, who ran on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, won the women’s division of the 2019 Army Ten Miler with a time of 54:05. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin were present at the finish line of the race to congratulate Kibet. Kibet is also a soldier-athlete in the World Class Athlete Program.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

Keter, also a WCAP Solider-athlete, won second place overall for the men with a time of 49:04. Lalang has an extensive running background including being an eight time NCAA Division 1 National Champion at the University of Arizona.

Kibet ran at the University of Arizona where she broke the school’s women’s 5,000 meter record. She kept a mile pace of 5:24 and knew she was going to win after mile four.

“When we started it was a big crowd and I wasn’t sure if there were females in front of me but when I got to mile four someone said ‘first female’ and I thought ‘Oh that’s me!,” said Kibet. “The rest of the way I kept hearing first female and I was confident that I was going to win.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Spc. Benard Keter finishing the 2019 Army Ten-Miler in second place with a time of 49:04. Keter was on the All-Army Ten Miler team and is currently a soldier-athlete in the World Class Athlete Program.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

The 2019 All-Army Ten-Miler team was made up of six soldier-athletes from around the world and coached by retired Col. Liam Collins. Three of the soldier-athletes are members of WCAP.

Kibet also won first place in the female military division. Maj. Kelly Calway, a member of the All-Army Ten Miler team, won second place for the female military division.

Over 35,000 people participated in the 2019 Army-Ten Miler with more than half of the runners affiliated with the Military.

“The best part was running with my fellow soldiers,” said Lalang. “Seeing the soldiers cheer you on is the greatest feeling. I have wanted to win the Army Ten-Miler since basic training and now my dream has come true.”

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Maj. Kelly Calway crossing the finish line of the 2019 Army Ten-Miler. Calway won second place in the female military category. She was on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin were present at the finish line of the race to congratulate Lalang and Kibet. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville were on stage during the ceremony to hand the winners their awards.

“Being congratulated by the senior Army leadership was great,” said Lalang. “I had just finished the race so I didn’t realize who had given me a coin then I looked down at it and thought ‘Oh my gosh that’s the Secretary of the Army!’ It was indescribable.”

Up next for Lalang is the seventh CISM Military World Games where he will compete in the 1,500 meter race. Both Lalang and Kibet are also gearing up for the Olympics trials for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

Spc. Lawi Lalang placed first in the 2019 Army-Ten Miler and Spc. Benard Keter placed second. Spc. Elvin Kibet placed first in the women’s division. All three winners are soldier-athletes in the World Class Athlete program and were on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team. Maj. Kelly Calway won second for top female military finisher. 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team members include: Spc. Michael Biwott from Fort Hood, Maj. Kelly Calway from Fort Jackson, Sgt. Peter Koskey from USAG Humphreys, and WCAP soldiers Spc. Benard Keter, Spc. Elvin Kibet, Spc. Lawi LaLang, all from Fort Carson. Retired Col. Liam Collins coached the team.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

“The preparation for the Games has already started,” said Lalang. “Doing a race like this ten miler is a great tempo run. Now I will focus on staying consistent and believing in myself.”

The Army Ten-Miler was established to support Army fitness goals, promote the Army and building esprit de corps. All race proceeds benefit Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, which includes All-Army Sports.

The 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team members include: Spc. Michael Biwott from Fort Hood, Maj. Kelly Calway from Fort Jackson, Sgt. Peter Koskey from USAG Humphreys, and WCAP soldiers Spc. Bernard Keter, Spc. Elvin Kibet, Spc. Lawi LaLang, all from Fort Carson. Retired Col. Liam Collins coached the team.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information