The community of Malden, Missouri rallied together in the cold rain, late on a Friday night after a high school football game, to become top supporters for wounded warriors.
Army veteran Mitch Green and a small group of veterans organized the “The Green Wave Vets,” a fundraising team for the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) virtual Carry Forward® 5K, delivered by CSX®. The team is named after Malden High School’s mascot, the Green Wave.
People of all ages braved the weather to join them in 2018, including high school students and parents. This year, they are counting on growing support from their small community to best last year’s record. The 2019 virtual Carry Forward® 5K will be on Friday, September 6, after the first home game at Malden High School's footbal field.
Mitch is a Malden native whose family has a long history of service. “One of my grandfathers, all of my 11 uncles, many cousins, and other relatives were all veterans,” Mitch said. He pays respect to them by pinning their photos on his Army rucksack – the same one he used while deployed in Iraq.
Not all the heroes depicted on his rucksack are relatives. “One is a buddy of mine who served in Iraq with me and died from cancer last year. Another recently retired from his Army career. He and I still talk almost every week. We have been to each other’s weddings and have watched each other’s children grow up. He lives in Washington state, and we still manage to get together as often as we can.”
Mitch recalls the almost magical way in which things came together. He and his friends heard about virtual Carry Forward and decided to start a squad. When people heard there was a 5K to support veterans, the ball started rolling.
“The best part was that we weren’t asking people to sign up. People would stop me at the school or a ballgame to ask how they could join us,” Mitch said.
A squad of two became more than 30 people. One participant drove seven hours to walk with a team of school friends.
“It was not the best weather,” Mitch recalled. “It was cold and rainy. We still walked on the track after the football game, starting at almost 10 pm. Not one person missed the 5K. Everyone who said they would participate showed up. I am very proud of our little town.”
Everyone pitched in: a friend’s daughter played a special playlist of every armed force’s song and a mix of ’40s music, rock, and country to keep them going. Mitch’s daughter made team t-shirts, and the announcer read the participants’ names during the event as well as information about WWP services.
“The announcer I've known most of my life, and I run the clocks and scoreboards for the home games. Another veteran is the assistant coach, one of the other veterans is the mayor, and there’s also a teacher and a junior high coach.”
Malden has its own military history. In 1941, the War Department began construction of the Malden Army Airfield. Ten years later, the base was re-activated to train pilots for the Korean War. John L. Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot of Apollo 13, received his initial flight training in Malden. Maj. Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., an Air Force test pilot, and the first African American to become an astronaut, also trained there.
With all that history and support, The Green Wave Vets are looking forward to this year’s event.
This community of 4,500 people is an example of open-hearted Americans who honor and empower veterans and who put the WWP mission in motion.
Participants can also simply choose to raise money, show up, and cheer on others. No matter which activity is chosen, every step taken empowers wounded warriors as they take on their next mission.
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.
Friday, Sept. 6 after first home football game. Malden High School Football Field.