Brandon Pelletier, a turret gunner who served in the Iraq war, recalled his own recovery in 2008, not long after an improvised explosive device discharged under his Humvee, crushing his right arm and leaving it paralyzed.
"I was in some dark places in my rehab," said Pelletier, 26, who also suffers from a traumatic brain injury that requires him to sleep near a seizure-sensing dog.
Pelletier continued: "I was sitting on a couch next to this other Marine. He was a double amputee. Shrapnel had taken out both his eyes, so he was completely blind. He started giving me shit, and I was just mad at him for no reason.
"He goes, 'I can't see what's wrong with you, but I guarantee I'm hurt a lot worse than you, and if I can get up and take on the challenges of today, there's no reason why you can't.'"
Helping wounded veterans like Pelletier take on the challenges of life after war is the mission of the Semper Fi Fund, which, on March 6, raised $10,000 thanks to nearly 300 runners who participated in a 5K run/walk at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG construction show in Las Vegas.
"There is no better cause at this show," said Ron DeFeo, chairman and CEO of Terex Corp., which won the prize for the largest corporate team, at 64 runners strong.
The previous event in 2011 hosted 250 runners who raised $5,000 for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Education Foundation. The race set new records this year for the total number of runners and funds raised.
"We doubled it this year," said Guy Ramsey, president and publisher of race organizer Maximum Capacity Media, speaking of the cash proceeds. More than $2,000 came in from walk-up participants alone, he noted. Roughly 94% of all funds go into the hands of wounded veterans.
ENR staff members also participated in the run, which will benefit veterans like Pelletier so they can get a new lease on life.
"It just proves that what we went through was worth it," said Pelletier. "You fight for those who care, and you fight for those who don't. To come back and see that we got good Americans here who are still willing—in Vegas—to wake up early and do a 5K race, and then have to sit and go through booths all day, that's amazing."