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When Pat’s Run starts in Tempe on Saturday, a group of Arizona State University student veterans and staff will not only turn to the legacy of Pat Tillman for motivation, but also to something personal.
Dubbed “Team 42,” the group of 50 race participants will wear T-shirts inscribed with the handwritten names of meaningful people as they take on the 13th annual 4.2-mile race.
For student veteran Zack Storm, that name will be “Justin Fowler” — his best friend in the Marine Corps, who died five years ago after an accident in Japan. Fowler, of Arkansas, was 23.
“He really inspired me to push myself,” said Storm, now an ASU senior majoring in economics. “He’s changed my life, (even) to this day.
Storm said his friend exemplified what it meant to be a Marine. He was a positive, trusted leader who earned responsibilities normally reserved for more senior service members.
“He really pushed me to excel and to be better,” said Storm, who served in an amphibious assault battalion.
The name on the back of Army veteran Michelle Loposky’s T-shirt, meanwhile, will read “Carletta Davis” — a former military colleague and friend.
Davis, an Army staff sergeant medic, and two other soldiers died in 2007 after a roadside bomb attack on their military vehicle in Iraq. The 34-year-old Alaska native left behind a husband and three children.
“I’m honoring the fact that she made such a sacrifice,” said Loposky, a military advocate in the Pat Tillman Veterans Center at ASU. “I just looked up to her, her perseverance and her strength. That’s what I’m honoring.”
Loposky’s tribute to Davis also serves as an opportunity to spotlight the achievements of female veterans, which often go unnoticed.
“That’s big for me,” she said. “A lot of women don’t give themselves credit for their contributions.”
The idea of Team 42 and the T-shirt stemmed from the desire to increase student and Pat Tillman Veterans Center participation in this year’s run.
“We thought this would be a great way to attract more student veterans,” said Matt Schmidt, assistant director of outreach at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. “Help them find more purpose in the run and attract more students to be more engaged.”
Schmidt, who will also run and be powered by his parents’ names on his shirt, hopes Team 42 in the future can become the catalyst for increased engagement past its current boundaries.
“Team 42 could potentially be more socially embedded,” Schmidt said. “This could be something that we extend beyond the veteran student population and into the community. So this is just the start, but it could become something more significant surrounding Pat’s Run.”
Before the race, all team members will gather to receive their T-shirt and write the names. Then each person will briefly tell the group about the service member they selected and why, Schmidt said. It will be a good opportunity to pause and reflect.
“When we slow down, we’re much more likely to see the opportunities to really connect and engage with the things that matter most,” he said. “Sometimes we’re moving so fast that we miss opportunities to really build meaningful relationships. And that’s what’s cool about this team.”
Organized by the Pat Tillman Foundation, more than 30,000 participants, volunteers and spectators are expected this year in Tempe for Pat’s Run. Additionally, the ASU Alumni Association-sponsored shadow runs will be held in more than 30 cities nationwide.
Pat’s Run is the signature event of the Pat Tillman Foundation and honors the legacy of its namesake. Tillman was an ASU honor graduate and star athlete, former NFL player and Army veteran who died in combat in 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.
The Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships. Proceeds from the race directly support these efforts via the Tillman Scholars, who embody Tillman’s commitment to service, learning and action. Nearly $14 million has been invested in academic support for individuals who are committed to a life of service in medicine, law, business, policy, technology, education and the arts.
The Pat Tillman Veterans Center has locations on the Tempe, Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic, West and Lake Havasu City campuses, as well as an ASU Online component. For more information about the center’s services, including veteran support resources, click here.
In this video, ASU student veterans share experiences of their service, misconceptions people sometimes have about veterans and the skills they developed from being in the military.
Top photo: Participants in the 2016 Pat's Run take off from the starting line last April in Tempe. The run commemorates Pat Tillman, an ASU alumnus and record-breaking safety for the Arizona Cardinals who stepped away from the NFL to serve in the U.S. Army. Photo by Ben Moffat/ASU Now