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In a puff of red and blue smoke, runners took off down the Jefferson City Greenway.
Approximately 75 people joined Sunday’s Red, White and Blue 5K Color Run, an annual fundraiser to support classes for veterans at the Jefferson City Area YMCA.
The course began and ended at Last Flight Brewing Company and followed the path of the city’s greenway. The Lincoln University women’s basketball team was stationed along the route to throw colors at runners in white shirts.
“I think the biggest point is the connection,” said Renee Bosch, a veteran who ran the course with fellow veterans. “When you get out of the service, we might feel alone, we might feel lost, but finding those other veterans and connecting with them is big. It’s huge finding your tribe again.”
The 5K generates funds for the Truman VA’s Whole Health Program, which offers classes to veterans through area YMCAs. The YMCA provides veterans in the program with two months of free family memberships.
Taylor Pendleton instructs the course at the Jefferson City Area YMCA, which she said is focused on helping veterans transition back into society by setting life goals, making life changes and improving their health.
“It’s just one way in life’s circle to give back to those who helped us get where we are,” Pendleton said.
Bosch also works to support the Whole Health Program but signed up to run Sunday’s 5K with a group of fellow veterans who organized through the Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit working to enrich the lives of veterans. Bosch served 12 years in the Army doing psychological operations until 2009. She served three combat tours: two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
“Like most veterans, when I got out in ’09, I really struggled with some unresolved trauma and PTSD,” she said. “The transition between military life to civilian life, it’s difficult. It’s a completely different way of life.”
Bosch said she found help at a VA hospital and it made her want to help other veterans in a similar way. Many veterans feel lost and out of place returning home, she said. The Whole Health Program helps them set goals for improving their social life and mental health.
She said events like Sunday’s 5K help veterans get out of the house and socialize.
“I just highly encourage veterans to come out and give it a chance,” Bosch said. “I come across veterans every day that have been out of the service for decades and they still have not found their way to the VA — I just encourage them to come and see what it is that we have to offer.”
Sam McElwaine served 36 years in the Air Force and said coming off active duty was “a total transition.” He said he wished the VA offered more services when he was returning home.
McElwaine ran the 5K on Sunday because he said he likes supporting other veterans. He comes from a military family in which his father and uncle served in the Navy and another uncle served in the Marine Corps.
“I just find it worthy,” he said of supporting the Whole Health Program. “These people have given so much.”
Shelly Poire, director of development and marketing for YMCA, didn’t have a fundraising goal for the event, but said she was happy with its turnout.
“The Y is really happy to support the veterans in our community and give them the opportunity to be a part of the Y,” Poire said.