Brothers in Arms: Two Marines set to leave Cape on mission to help Wounded Warriors
American military personnel face a range of situations and challenges while serving overseas, but the obstacles do not end when these heroes come home.
“The fight over there is one thing, but it’s another thing when they get back,” Cpl. Rick Geslain, a former rifleman for the Marine Corps, said.
For the wounded who return, it can be almost unimaginable – surgeries, rehabilitation, financial strain, the chance of pain medication addiction. For those in need of help, there is at least one place where they can turn to.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a non-profit volunteer-based organization that helps servicemen and servicewomen who are injured in combat.
“They really do watch out for the vets,” Geslain said. “I know it’s a great organization – I know they take care of all the returning troops.”
So he and four other riflemen from his unit, including Cpl. Doug Meyer, of Cape Coral, have come up with a plan to raise funds for the organization. The Marines are running from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Ground Zero in New York.
“We had a lot of close calls, but me personally, I made it out unscathed,” Meyer said, adding that he lost a few buddies and others were injured.
“I wanted to do something in return for them, to help them out,” he said.
The group hopes to raise $20,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I’ve personally witnessed what they do. They make it so much easier to transition back (into civilian life),” Meyer said.
As of Thursday, the group had raised about $6,700 in donations.
Geslain expressed surprise at the support they had received so far.
“That just proves to you that there’s a lot of people out there that care about the guys and girls who come back wounded,” he said.
The idea for the fund-raiser initially started with Geslain. His first idea was to run from Camp Lejune in North Carolina to Camp Pendleton in California.
“I found, logistically, it was a nightmare,” Geslain said.
So, he rerouted the trek from his home – Myrtle Beach – to New York.
“I have a lot of support here,” he said, adding that he grew up in the Big Apple. “I was there for 9/11. I know families who lost loved ones.”
Geslain then contacted the others and a plan came together in a few months. Joining he and Meyer will be Cpl. Raziel Diaz, Cpl. Jose Isa and Cpl. Josh Miller.
On Thursday, the five-man team will depart out of Eastern Carolina University for the “relay-style” run. One person will run at a time, while the others will follow in a RV that has been donated by a friend, Meyer said.
“Each person is going to take turns running at least six miles per day,” he said, adding that they expect the trek to take approximately 20 to 25 days. “We’ll probably have to stop at night because there’s some crazy drivers.”
The group will post videos of their run online along the way.
“All of us that are doing this are not big runners,” Meyer said, adding that they are more into weight lifting. “It’ll give people enjoyment to watch us.”
“I am not a runner, whatsoever,” he said.
Both Geslain and Meyer have a comrade in mind for the run.
Meyer is taking part for Cpl. Joseph “Joe” Whitehead, of Mobile, Ala. Whitehead was killed on Jan. 17, 2011, by an IED during an operation in Afghanistan. The tragedy occurred days after Whitehead turned 23.
He explained that he never saw Whitehead in a bad mood.
“He was happy,” Meyer said. “He was always an outgoing guy.”
Geslain is doing the run for Cpl. Kevin Cueto. After being transferred to another unit, he was killed on June 22, 2010, when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan. He was in his early 20s when he died, according to Geslain.
“He was just all around a great Marine,” he said, adding that he best remembers Cueto’s sense of humor, his wits and his character.
To make a donation, visit online: www.facebook.com/gruntrunners.
“If anyone wants to come join us and run with us, they’re more than welcome to,” Meyer said. “The more people who know about it, the better.”
Meyer was born in Fort Myers, grew up in the Cape and graduated from Mariner High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in the summer of 2008, and he served in Iraq and Afghanistan before being discharged in March.
Geslain enlisted in 2005 and served in Iraq, Africa, Cuba, Israel, Spain and Germany. He was honorably discharged in June 2010 after three tours.