PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They served our country, and now, they’re on a new mission. A group of veterans are ready to run in the Pittsburgh Marathon this weekend.
“Being out in this city, with all these views, you always find the inspiration to run,” said Dan Blevins, a veteran of the United States Army.
These days, Dan loves nothing more than loading his kids into a baby jogger and heading out on a five or six mile run. But that wasn’t the case when he returned from Iraq a few year back.
“Kind of sat on the couch inside,” he said. “At least six months went by, gained a lot of weight, really isolated.”
That’s when Dan found the Red, White and Blue Team, a group of vets and civilians who meet every Wednesday night in Point State Park for a training run, some laughs and some mutual support.
“The best thing is you’re being productive, you’re not sitting at a bar and being lazy. You’re burning calories,” said Iraq War vet John Yaros.
John, who will be running the half marathon on Sunday, credits the group runs with relieving the stress of returning from war.
“Good old running, tiring out, fresh air, you sleep like a baby,” he says.
But Team RWB is more than just running. It includes civilians who learn what it’s like to be a veteran returning home, and who, in turn, help vets with that process of coming back into civilian life.
“Because we don’t always understand what they need, and they don’t always understand what our prospectives are,” said one civilian group member.
It opens up new worlds and connections for vets who might be inclined to isolate.
“If you just hang out with vets, you’re never going to branch out and get more comfortable. This way, there’s a little bit of everybody,” said John.
Team RWB and running have made a big difference in Navy vet Chuck Hull’s life. He’ll be running the full marathon on Sunday.
“It’s changed me a lot,” Chuck said. “Mentally, physically. I think it’s made me a better person. I’d like to think so. I hope so.”
In fact, it’s been life-changing for some members. Two years ago, Dan got off of the couch, shed close to 80 pounds, married and started a family. He ran the marathon that year and will run the relay this time.
“So, it really brought me back out of my shell and back into society in a way,” Dan said.
It’s about running and it’s about the marathon, but most of all it’s about vets and civilians coming together and forming a team.