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CAF supporting eleven injured veterans at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside

OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 06: Elite men leave the start gate for the swim portion of the IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside on April 06, 2019 in Oceanside, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Just south of the US nation’s largest marine corps base, eleven resilient Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) Operation Rebound athletes will compete at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside on April 4, 2020.

The Operation Rebound competitors will compete alongside over 5,000 athletes to swim 1.2 miles in Oceanside Harbor, cycle a 56-mile bike route through San Onofre Bluffs State Park and Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton and run 13.1 miles through Oceanside. Some will participate as individuals and undertake the whole race, while others will participate as part of a relay team.

CAF’s Operation Rebound (OR) program is a sports and fitness program for American military personnel, veterans and first responders with permanent physical challenges.

“Operation Rebound athletes are not defined by their injuries, but rather by their heroic spirit and determination to overcome them,” said Nico Marcolongo, Senior Program Manager for CAF’s Operation Rebound program. “Our continued partnership with IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside, allows our athletes to reignite their competitive spirit and strengthen community.”

For the past 12 years, CAF has been the official charity partner of IRONMAN in Oceanside. This year, Team CAF is comprised of eleven Operation Rebound athletes and seven CAF athletes – including Roderick Sewell, history’s first bilateral amputee IRONMAN World Championship finisher, and paralympians Rudy Garcia-Tolson and Willie Stewart.

ESPY award winner Sergeant Kirstie Ennis, USMC (ret.), Lance Corporal Mike Duke, USMC (ret.) and the current female amputee 70.3 record holder, Colonel Patty Collins, US Army (ret.) are among the 11 Operation Rebound challenged athletes competing at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside:

  • Sergeant Omar Bermejo, USMC (ret), Casper, WY – Omar is a US Paralympian and Marine Corps veteran who served four tours in Iraq.
  • Lance Corporal Mike Duke, USMC (ret.), Boise, ID – Mike is a husband and father who has lived an active lifestyle. In 2004, Mike contracted a flesh-eating bacteria during Marine Corps Training (MCT) that put him in a 10-day coma and destroyed the entire left flank of his upper body.
  • Captain Eric McElvenny, USMC (ret.), Pittsburgh, PA – On his third deployment to Afghanistan, Eric was working with Afghan soldiers and stepped on an IED, suffering the loss of his right leg below the knee in the explosion. Eric used surfing as part of his recovery and from there, started competing in triathlon.
  • Tom Perez, San Marcos, CA – Tom has suffered severe vision trauma. He was medically discharged from the military and has dealt with deteriorating vision since, being diagnosed legally blind in 2010.
  • Oz Sanchez, San Diego, CA – Oz Sanchez is a three-time Paralympian who has won six medals. He is also a veteran for the Marine Corps Special Operations forces.
  • Major Anthony Smith, US Army (ret.), Armorel, AR – Smith took a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade while on deployment in Iraq. He was put in a body bag before a nurse noticed air bubbles coming up through the blood. Anthony was in a coma for 62 days and only recently regained most of his memory.
  • Sergeant Scott Thorne, US Army (ret.), Escondido, CA – On September 14, 2004, Scott was shot in the head by an insurgent while serving in Iraq. Eight days after he was shot, Scott arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. where doctors removed a large section of Scott’s skull to relieve the pressure from his swelling brain.
  • Colonel Patty Collins, US Army (ret.), Alexandria, VA — After returning home from deployment in Iraq, Patty was hit by a car while cycling to work. The injuries she sustained led to the amputation of her leg below the knee.
  • Scott Leason, San Diego, CA — When Scott was 20-years old, he joined the US Navy and served for seven years. While working at a convenience store, Scott was shot in the head during a robbery and lost both of his eyes and sense of smell.
  • Sergeant Kirstie Ennis, USMC (ret.), Glenwood Springs, CO – A retired Marine Corps sergeant, who was injured and nearly died seven years ago in a helicopter crash while on duty in Afghanistan. Ennis had to work her way back from a traumatic brain injury, spine trauma and shoulder damage, and endure a dozen or so surgeries, one to amputate her left leg above the knee.
  • Corporal Evan Morgan, USMC (ret.), Bakersfield, CA – While stationed in Iraq on his second tour, Evan’s vehicle was struck by an IED and as a result, he lost his right leg above the knee, left leg below the knee and sight in one eye.

CAF’s Operation Rebound program funds equipment, training and travel expenses that can help injured troops and first responders harness the healing power of sport – whether the goal is to win Paralympic gold or simply run around the block with their kids.

In 2019, CAF supported a record 367 veterans and first responders with Operation Rebound grants totalling US$490,000. Since 2004, CAF has awarded 2,926 Operation Rebound grants and supported 1,284 individuals, totalling US$4.6 million in support.

CAF is offering athletes the opportunity to support Operation Rebound by raising a minimum of US$2,000 each to race the IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside triathlon. The race is sold-out except for this unique fundraising opportunity.




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