I am motivated to run for those who cannot, to honor fallen comrades lost in battle or lost to suicide and I run to help heal Veterans ... I also run to heal myself.
VETERANS CAN FIND HEALING FROM TRAUMA AND PTSD THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS, ON THE TRAILS AND IN NATURE.
THIS IS MY STORY
My name is CamE Tasker and I’m the founder of Running for Combat Veterans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based out of Bellingham, Washington. I’m a female Combat Veteran and life-long, multi-sport athlete who was wounded in Iraq during my deployment from 2008-2009. My recovery has been an ever-changing process. I’ve found healing in the mountain of the Pacific Northwest more so than I ever could through doctors, therapists, or chemicals/drugs. Mountain running has helped bring recovery from pain, PTSD, and emotional trauma I encountered after serving in the U.S. Army and Washington National Guard for 7.5 years and finishing a year-long deployment to Iraq.
During my second mission in Iraq, I was severely injured after being trapped inside a smoke-filled Humvee that caught fire from an electrical fault. Luckily, I was able to escape with my life, but I wouldn’t know for many years the extent of damage done to my body. I had none of the treatments my body desperately needed. Just as I had pushed through injury as an athlete, I pushed through and continued to work with multiple broken bones, torn ligaments, and a slipped disc in my back, completing 30 additional combat missions, for a total of 32.
When I returned home to Washington State in August 2009 I was denied ALL immediate healthcare services through the Army and National Guard. My only option was to wait for care through Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. I found that, like thousands of Veterans returning from deployment, my struggles were largely due to inefficiencies in the system and bureaucratic red tape. Wait times were compounded since no two body parts could be receiving care at one time.
Upon my return, I sought treatment for injuries sustained during my service only to discover I had been dropped by the very system I was serving to uphold and protect.
Due to the immense bureaucracy involved in Veterans’ care, I had lengthy delays in my healing. In the recovery room after my 9th surgery (30+ surgical injection procedures), I vowed to become an advocate for all Combat Veterans who had fallen through the same cracks of the system as I had. Deprived of access to the treatment and therapy I needed, I committed myself instead to strict daily training, a healthy lifestyle, vitamin supplements, and long hikes/runs in the mountains. I would learn to train again. Not only to raise awareness of the issues our Veterans struggle with but, more importantly, to continue to share my story, to inspire hope, and show support for other struggling Veterans.
With a lack of funds and effective healthcare, our Veterans have the hardest time getting reintegrated back into society after deployments. We leave our lives abruptly when called to serve our country but when returning home, we need employment, housing, food, healthcare (medical and mental health), and financial support to reintegrate. When these provisions are denied by our military, state, and nation due to denials, failed programs, and immense amounts of paperwork, we suffer the costs. With such high rates of disability and PTSD for Combat Veterans, life struggles can quickly turn lethal.
Veterans who have laid their lives on the line for their country need support. I run for those Combat Veterans who cannot run themselves. I run to bring awareness about the high rates of Veterans with disabilities and PTSD. I run in memory of my fellow Comrades who have lost their battles to suicide at a staggering rate of 22+ a day. I run to give hope and inspiration to those struggling.
In 2016, I woke from hip surgery to find myself showcased in award-winning running photography in both Trail Runners Magazine and the Washington Trail Association 2017 Cover and Calendars. I was inspired to use this recognition to make a change for all Veterans and vowed to run again to reach this goal. I trained safely and diligently with the support and guidance of my treatment team (physical therapists, chiropractor, medical doctors, and coach) to get my mind and body back. I also prayed to God for his guidance and the good fortune to run well.
I have now run over 4,185 miles, climbed roughly 622,200 feet, completed 707 runs and more than 20 races. In May 2017, after 5 months of strict training, I brought home the gold for the USA, placing 1st Female and 13th Place overall in the Psiloritis International Mountain Race in Crete, Greece. I will continue to run with the goal of promoting Running for Combat Veterans and getting our collective stories out on a national level so we all win.
On August 9 2019, exactly one decade since my return home from my deployment to Iraq, I will attempt to run one of the longest endurance races in the nation, the Bigfoot 200—a 206.5 mile race which starts in Randall, Washington, at the base of Mount St. Helens and traverses the Cascade Mountains, including 42,000 feet of ascent and more than 86,000 feet of elevation change. For someone who has undergone over a dozen surgeries, including a double Rhizotomy on my L4 and L5 just 8 weeks ago, this race is going to be no easy feat. I’ve followed strict medical, PT, chiropractic, and coaching orders while training and this feat is finally be within reach.
I chose the biggest race to draw the most attention and raise the most money I can for my fellow Brothers and Sisters in arms affected by suicide, PTSD and disabilities. I will run to raise money for those stuck waiting in the system. I believe that help with even one medical bill or mental health appointment when in dire need could save a Veteran’s life.
My goal is to raise $50,000 this year for Veterans in need. Donations are used to provide financial and mental health support for any Combat Veteran with a valid Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD214), with the ultimate goal of reforming the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System for all.
Just as so many Veterans have defended our country, I ask you to return the favor. I can do the running, but I need your help to raise money and awareness. Running for Combat Veterans is a 501(c) (3) Non-Profit organization set in place to help Veterans get the care they so deserve. WILL YOU JOIN ME?
Running for Combat Veterans (RFCV) goals are as follows:
1) Run to raise awareness of Veterans with disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and for those who have lost their battle to suicide. Run to raise awareness about the only healthcare system our Veterans are entitled to and that most healthcare providers and specialty care clinics DENY coverage for: The Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
2) Collect donations for every mile run for the following:
a. First, to fund the establishment of our 501(c) (3) Non-Profit organization (RFCV).
b. Most importantly, to help alleviate hardships Veterans face when in need of services they cannot get funded through our State, Nation, Military, Veteran Funds or Veterans Affairs Healthcare System for any of the following: medical care, mental health care, housing, employment or food.
3) Reform the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System Nationwide. Currently, Veterans are forced into an ineffective system. With no other permissible options for coverage, Veterans must wait on the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, which simply does not work. The VAHC is confusing, full of loopholes, requires loads of paperwork to be completed and hoops (for providers and Veterans) to jump through in order to gain approvals/authorizations for care. The system is far from cost-effective. And most providers and nearly all specialty care providers deny services to Veterans in our communities.
Let's help our Nation’s heroes get the support they so need by receiving the healthcare they so deserve.
Thank you so much for your support!
Photographs by Nick Danielson