By Daniel Drummond
As the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
And for those training for the Boston Marathon, distance can also inspire runners to train even harder – especially when a runner’s husband is deployed to Poland in support of America’s NATO allies.
Such is the case with Mary Vaughn, who is running in the historic race as part of Team USO to raise money for the nonprofit organization, which brings comfort, care and connection to soldiers around the globe.
“One of the things I like to motivate her with is that this is ‘the big shot,’” said her husband, U.S. Army Capt. John Vaughn, who is currently deployed to a Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) located in Poland.
“You’re running for a cause. You’re running for soldiers. You’re helping to improve their lives and contribute to the mission by doing this. I know that when she is out there, she is thinking about the soldiers as she’s putting the miles in.”
Mary agreed, saying that she would not put herself “and family through the time and energy for any other organization. No other organization could get that kind of passion from me.”
As part of Team USO, Mary is joined by Matt James, a former contestant on “The Bachelor,” Derek Melendez, an Army medical recruiter and Jennifer Racine, a Massachusetts high school teacher who also serves in the Army Reserve. With four invitational entries granted to the USO by the John Hancock Non-Profit Program, the team has set a goal of raising $100,000 in support of the USO.
For Mary Vaughn and her husband Capt. John Vaughn, the motivation behind this race is personal. The USO has played a big part in the Vaughn family’s military life, supporting them in various ways throughout John’s career in the Army, and especially during deployments.
“I’m very much looking forward to the day when I can go home, but until that day, the USO is taking care of all of us out here as we do our mission,” John said.
John noted that, especially in the case of the younger soldiers under his command, the USO is a way to boost morale, keep spirits high and provide a connection to home they might not otherwise have.
“One of the things we have been looking forward to … have been the trips that the USO makes while we are out here,” John said. “Coming out and grilling, making pancakes, or bringing out necessities.”
These necessities include the USO’s well-known USO Care Packages, some of which include travel-sized toiletries. These particular care packages have been the number one item requested by the military deployed to Eastern Europe and happens to be one of the programs that Team USO’s fundraising will go toward.
The fact that his wife is running the Boston Marathon on behalf of the USO and is fundraising for the organization makes her participation in the race that much more meaningful.
“The people who donate to my wife … it’s been a way to help her and the soldiers,” John noted. “They feel like they are contributing to the cause.”
In addition to the cause itself, a big driving force that gives Mary that extra push during training are their three children – Henry, Warren and Nathaniel – who are keeping her going every step of the way.
“Oh, they are so sweet! They are so excited for mommy’s big race,” Mary said.
“I pretty regularly have to take them out in the stroller for training runs … They are right there the whole way talking to me, keeping me company. I like spending that time with them, they like going with me, and they are super sweet and excited for mommy’s ‘bit’ [sic] race.”
Mary has remained upbeat and motivated to continue training for the Boston Marathon, but her husband’s deployment has been challenging for their entire family.
“I feel like it is so cheesy, but it feels like half of my heart is on the other side of the world,” Mary said. “It’s incredibly difficult not to be in the same place.”
Although many miles still separate Mary from the finish line, as well as from her husband John, she carries on regardless, all in the name of supporting America’s military.
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