Why I Run: To Me, Raising Funds and Training for This Race-Facing the Wind and the Cold, Getting Up Early When I Would Have Rather Stayed in Bed, Icing the Sore Muscles and Improving My Diet-Was Nothing Compared to the Daily Struggle Faced by Military Parents of Children Affected by Autism

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Boarding an airplane on that chilly Spring morning, I was excited but nervous as I traveled to warmer weather--and lower elevation--to compete in my very first 10K race. It had been almost a year since my husband retired from the Marine Corps, and since we had moved our family from a bustling southern California beach town to a beautiful little valley in northern Utah, where we were enjoying the seasons and the slower pace.

Though I have always considered myself an athlete, playing soccer in high school and college, I did not consider myself a "runner." I never really liked running "just to run," and preferred getting my exercise in the context of other sports, so that I was running "for a purpose"--to get a ball, to block a shot.

However, I have recently found my "purpose" to run.

When I heard about ACT Today for Military Families' (ATMF) 5K/10K race in San Diego to benefit military families with children affected by autism, I knew that I had to be involved. And even though it was January, in the dead of winter, and though I hadn't run so much as a mile since we'd moved, that day I stocked up on cold weather gear and started my training, literally, in the snow. Running this race became a personal mission--as the cause and the mission of ATMF was one that our family understood all too well.

Our eight-year-old daughter, Kate, was among the 1 in 88 military children diagnosed with autism. But thanks to early, intensive intervention, Kate has gone from a diagnosis of severe autism at the age of two, to being academically above grade level and virtually indistinguishable from the other children in her second grade classroom.

To get to where we are today, we have had to wage a six-year battle of our own--with our insurance company, the school district, the state; the people we had thought would be our allies--in order to get Kate the services she needed.

In the midst of our battle for Kate, my husband was severely wounded in Iraq spending weeks in the hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries and beginning his long road to recovery through physical therapy and rehabilitation. Juggling Kate's intensive therapy schedule, hospital visits, and caring for our other daughter was daunting, to say the least.

However, if you ask my husband what was harder: getting shot by a sniper in Iraq or trying to recover our daughter from autism, he'll tell you it was the latter, not the former.

Through thousands of hours of individual therapy, and an enormous financial and emotional toll on our family, Kate has made progress that we didn't dare dream for her six years ago. All the while, Buck was fighting the nation's battles--wanting only that his family--his little girl--be taken care of in his absence.

ACT Today for Military Families, is doing exactly that--filling a gap that currently has many of our military families in crisis. ATMF is helping to meet the immediate needs of families and children affected by this devastating disorder, who are simultaneously under the stress and strain of sending their loved one into harm's way.

To me, raising funds and training for this race--facing the wind and the cold, getting up early when I would have rather stayed in bed, icing the sore muscles and improving my diet--was nothing compared to the daily struggle faced by military parents of children affected by autism. …