Wounded Warrior Project Run helps soldiers

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The Wounded Warrior Project provides free programs and services for soldiers injured in the wars since 9-11 and helps them build successful lives. To raise money for the project, local marathon runner Jim Schnitzler, organized the Believe in Heroes Memorial Day Run.

The event is sponsored by Jubilee Los Lunas, Main Street Muscle and Fitness and US Bank. They have raised $50,000 in three years with 86 cents of every dollar going directly to the Wounded Warrior programs. This year, the goal is to raise $20,000.

In addition to participants from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, event runners come from all over the country, including Maine, Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky and elsewhere.

"It's getting bigger and better every year," said Schnitzler.

The event starts at 7:30 a.m., Saturday, May 24, in the parking lot of Mitchell's Starlight Theater, 2226 Sun Ranch Village Loop SW in Los Lunas.

"In Jim and his 10K/5K run, we have people who have consistently gone four years in a row to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project," said spokeswoman Mary Tallouzi. "The Wounded Warrior Project's mission is to honor and empower our wounded warriors across the nation, so by him doing this, it's just an example of our community stepping up to the plate and making a difference in the lives of so many young men and women."

The Wounded Warrior Project has 20 different programs addressing mind, body, economic empowerment and a network to ensure injured service members stay connected with one another.

"It costs them nothing — everything is provided by Wounded Warrior Project," Tallouzi said. "Wounded Warrior Project accepts no state or federal grants because we will not have our hands held in how we are able to provide."

The biggest injuries from the conflicts since 9-11 are post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

"Traumatic brain injury is caused by repeated concussive blasts, repeated explosions — it can also be from a direct hit," Tallouzi said. "It changes your whole life because we have full grown men with such traumatic brain injuries that we're teaching them how to talk again, how to count again, how to read."

Since 2001, roughly 6,800 soldiers have died, 53,700 have been wounded, 320,000 have TBIs and 400,000 have PTS.

Tallouzi lost her son, Army Sgt. Daniel Tallouzi, in 2009 from injuries sustained in Iraq. He received a brain injury from a bomb explosion and died in 2009, but it was when he was being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that his mother was approached by representatives of the Wounded Warrior Project offering help.

After her son's death, Tallouzi wanted to fulfill a legacy for Daniel by being a spokeswoman for the Wounded Warrior Project.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Wounded Warrior Project, which was started with backpacks of toiletries and clothing by several Vietnam and other veterans in 2003.

"They sat in a basement and put those backpacks together and that became their calling card," Tallouzi said. "They went to the hospitals with 50 bags … they got home that night and Walter Reed said, 'Do you have 50 more?'"

The government takes care of the initial medical attention, but the Wounded Warrior Project helps them after the surgeries, meeting them in rehab to take them out to events to show them there can be a successful life after the injury. It teaches them how to have a successful new life no matter what it looks like, Tallouzi said.

The fourth annual Believe in Heroes Memorial Day Run has a 5K and 10K Run/Walk, a kids K and a 5K Rucksack. The 10K starts at 7:30 a.m., 5K at 8:30 a.m., and the kids K at 9 a.m.

Registration packets are available online at www.woundedwarriorseventloslunas.com or at the Los Lunas Transportation Center, 751 Juan Perea Road.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.