Marine and Army veteran Miki Padgett and Army veteran Sara Glover plan to complete a 5K in downtown Bowling Green on Saturday that will support injured veterans and their families through the Wounded Warrior Project.
Padgett and Glover’s 5K will start at 8 a.m. at Executive Fitness Club at 513 State St. and loop around the downtown square three times before ending back at the club.
Their run is part of the Wounded Warrior Project’s annual Carry Forward 5K event. This run is normally held in cities across the U.S., but the event shifted to a virtual setting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Participants across the country can complete their own 5K whenever and wherever is easiest for them as they raise money for programs and services within the organization.
“An event like this gets people out of the house and gives them a big sense of togetherness,” Wounded Warrior Project fundraising specialist J.R. Bourne said. “It’s a great way to fight PTSD, and many veterans are still participating this year despite it being virtual.”
“We were looking for a signature event that we could showcase to the public,” Bourne said of the event’s inception. “We settled on a 5K as we thought that was a great middle ground so that anyone could participate in the event.”
The event started in 2018 with Nashville as one of the host cities. A major characteristic of this 5K are the three ways an individual can chose to participate.
Runners can either carry a flag while they run to show support and patriotism, they can carry a weight to represent the responsibilities that veterans carry, or they can carry another person to symbolize one warrior carrying another.
After meeting during last year’s race in Nashville, Padgett and Glover decided to complete Saturday’s 5K to make sure that wounded veterans still receive their yearly support.
“We want this to be a patriotic celebration for the public,” Padgett said. “We want people to understand the outside scars and the inner, invisible scars that veterans have to deal with.”
“This is a really important event,” Glover said. “So many veterans are really stepping outside of their comfort zone for this event. I ran last year and the support was great. It was very emotional. It’s going to be awesome.”
Padgett is a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a Bowling Green resident. His Army scouts’ job was finding roadside bombs ahead of patrols. He was injured in 2007 after multiple incidents with improvised explosive devices detonating near his Humvee.
Padgett’s injuries included a broken back and multiple traumatic brain injuries. He received a Purple Heart and continued serving, eventually connecting with the Wounded Warrior Project after a humanitarian mission to Haiti in 2010.
“It’s very personal,” Padgett said of the 5K. “I came back from my first deployment and I had a lot of issues I hadn’t dealt with yet. I was drinking half a bottle of vodka a day just to drown out the noise and be able to sleep.
“Six months later, I came to the realization that I needed to get better,” he said. “Running regularly and talking to people is what helped the most. Opening up really taught me how to deal with these inner problems. People need to be heard. Just listening to someone helps so much.”
Last year, Padgett’s team was the top fundraiser at the Nashville race and is also currently on track for the top spot this year as he has already raised $4,450.
Glover, who is also a Bowling Green resident, has faced similar mental issues after serving from 2004 to 2008. She still suffers from PTSD and has since started a nonprofit organization called Foxtrot Forward & Co., Sayra’s Mission.
The organization’s main goal is to encourage veterans, family and friends to get outside and find a therapeutic value in nature.
For Glover, staying active outside has been an easy way to deal with her own anxiety, and Saturday’s 5K is another way for her to do so.
“I think we all need a little bit of positivity right now with everything going on, and this event is going to be a great source of positivity.” Glover said. “Everyone is doing something to symbolize what veterans have to carry with them.”
The Carry Forward virtual 5K is open until the end of the year as participants can register either as individuals or as one squad. Donations are available to be made on any participant’s or squad’s online page.
As of Wednesday, there are 2,036 participants and 235 squads in the national virtual run, and a total $231,310 has been raised thus far.