Chris Wooten, 24, of Phenix City, Ala., wears a silver bracelet he had made with the name “Corporal Michael Jankiewicz” engraved on it.
Jankiewicz, of Ramsey, N.J., lost his life in the same helicopter crash that retired Army squad leader Wooten was seriously injured in while serving in the Army last year in Afghanistan. Wooten suffers from daily headaches, two herniated disks, nerve damage in his neck and just had back surgery one month ago.
But in remembrance of his fallen friend, Wooten wouldn’t let any discomfort keep him from making the trip to the fourth annual Long Island Run for the Warriors at Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst on Sunday.
“It’s inspiring to see all these people out here today,” Wooten said.
Hope for the Warriors, founded in North Carolina in 2006 by a group of military wives, supports wounded U.S. service members, their families and families of the fallen. Tina Atherall, the nonprofit organization's executive vice president, was appreciative of the outpouring of support shown from the more than 2,000 people who competed at the event -- which consisted of 10k and 5k runs and 1-mile walk -- as well as from the thousands of others who cheered them on. Run for the Warriors events are held in several parts of the country, and Atherall likes Long Island as a destination for one of the races because so many from the Island serve in the military.
“It’s more than a run,” said race director Jack Caffey. “The running is secondary to saying thank you to the wounded, those serving and the fallen.”
The event raised more than $100,000, according to Atherall, but not all of benefit could be measured in dollar signs.
Wounded Marines Keith Zeier, of Holbrook and Manny Jimenez, of Connecticut, were eager to run. Zeier lost his leg from a roadside bomb in 2006, and Jimenez lost his arm in 2010 from a homemade explosive, both in Afghanistan.
”It’s important to be out here today and run, and it’s also awesome for so many people to show their support,” Jimenez said.