This Sunday, Army Cpt. Mike Keilty will take his place at the starting line alongside 15,000 other runners in the Philadelphia Marathon. But he's not running to win -- instead, his goal is to raise money and awareness for the families of wounded and fallen service members.
"This is the little piece that I can do," said Keilty, who has already raised $50,000.
He has partnered with a company called Take Pride, which designs T-shirts to raise money for the wounded, and a special shirt has been designed to support Keilty's Race for Heroes. All of the money raised will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides support to families of injured service members.
Not a long-distance runner by nature, he decided to run this marathon for charity in honor of three of the fallen who are especially close to his heart -- Mike LiCalzi, Ronnie Winchester and Jimmy Regan, who all attended New York's Chaminade High School with him.
"They represent all the wounded and all the killed in action for our country," said Keilty, who is running the marathon while home on a two-week leave from Afghanistan. He will return to the battlefield just a few days after the race to complete his 12-month tour.
This is Keilty's second deployment to the Middle East, and this weekend he will also run in honor of those his unit lost during his first deployment in 2004. "These are basically people who have given a blank check to the American people payable up to and including their lives. That is an amazing thing and I want to make sure we honor them."
For the last few months, Keilty has been training in the mountains of Afghanistan, waking up at the crack of dawn to run about 70 miles per week. Though the preparation has been challenging, he has the motivation he needs to power through the difficult moments.
"These guys gave so much," he said. "I am doing a very simple thing here, I'm putting one foot in front of the other and running. If I can do a little thing like running a race then I will."
You can support Keilty's Race for Heroes by visiting http://www.takepride.com/home.php?redirect=specialedition_1