October 20, 2014
The Marine Corps Marathon is just six days away and Elizabth Shirey is just one of 37 dedicated participants who will be running this weekend in our nation’s capital in support of The Mission Continues. Elizabeth is 26 and living in Los Angeles. This is her second consecutive year running the Marine Corps Marathon to fundraise for The Mission Continues. We conducted a short Q&A to get some insight into her motivation to run 26.2 miles twice in support of returning soldiers.
1) Tell us about your motivation/inspiration to run the Marine Corps Marathon for The Mission Continues.
This is my second year running this marathon with this team! What I like about The Mission Continues is that it’s about a hand up and not a one-time hand-out. Big vacations and parades end, but community service helps integrate people into everyday real life — and leaves a lasting impact on the locations where these projects are done. I think this also creates a bridge between the civilian and military spheres on an ultra-local level, right where it is most effective. The Marine Corps Marathon is also a great embodiment of that bridge. Service members turn out to volunteer (and yell encouragement on that last super-mean hill), and the runners are an interesting mix of active duty folks, civilians, and veterans. It’s a more interesting and meaningful race than some that I do in southern California. I also used to live in DC, and I miss that ever-present patriotic vibe!
2) Tell us about your personal connection to veterans.
I did not grow up knowing much about the military or veterans (even those in my own family), but I became workout buddies with an ROTC cadet during college and really became inspired to learn more about officer opportunities. I’ve wanted to be a JAG for the past seven years now — and recently graduated law school, so the goal is closer than ever!
I started learning about veterans’ unique needs back in 2009, when I interned for my Congresswoman and worked on a WWII veteran’s case that took a hold on my heart. After that, I had the bug to do more for this community that had sacrificed so much. I worked with veterans after college as national grassroots organizer for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, one of the primary organizations that lobbied to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Congress. Connecting with veterans of all ages, branches, locations, and backgrounds was a unique experience and inspired me further in my own JAG goal.
During law school at UCLA, I also directed our Veterans Clinic, where law students volunteer to do legal intake at the West LA VA with veterans recovering from homelessness and substance abuse. We also expanded the clinic to include a new relationship with the Inner City Law Center on Skid Row, which has a great program helping homeless and low-income veterans access the VA benefits they have earned. Next spring, part of the clinic will turn into a class where students can earn credit, which will better cement the program and expand students’ ability to help veterans. On a personal level, I will continue working with the Inner City Law Center on these VA benefits cases starting in September.
3) Tell us about your personal connection to The Mission Continues.
I volunteered at a service project for The Mission Continues a number of years ago, while still working for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in DC. We spent a holiday as a team out at Fort Meade, helping assemble new equipment for their library and children’s services. It was a great experience with a dedicated crew, and I liked the organization’s broader mission. I reconnected with The Mission Continues last year to fundraise during the marathon, and I’m back again!
4) What’s the most challenging part of training? How do you overcome that challenge?
Currently the most challenging part of training for me is staying healthy! Through other distance races, I have learned how to overcome challenges like pacing and endurance – more mental than physical obstacles – but I keep nursing tendonitis and overuse injuries this year. The key to healing is old-fashioned RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), which runners know all too well — but the hard part is telling myself I CAN’T run on a certain day, when I want to!!
5) Please share anything else you’d like supporters to know about your story.
I would just add a shout-out to my family and friends who have served: my uncles, grandfathers, and friends from school, work, and the GORUCK community. I also recently learned about my great-uncle, Lt. Robert Murden, who flew in the Army Air Corps and spent two years as a POW during WWII. Their service is inspiring and merits great respect.
If you’d like to donate to runners like Elizabeth, visit the Team Mission Continues fundraising page.