Cover Story: Marine Mud Challenge

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

BELMONT, NC (WBTV) - While our men and women are fighting terrorists overseas-- we're reminded the sacrifices they make for our freedom.

When troops are hurt.. many times they're sent to a hospital.. far from home and family.

Naturally, the family members of those injured want to be close to their loved one, but may not have the money to see them.

That's where a local group is stepping in.  And doing it in a most unique way.

The brains behind it.. a former marine.  A one-of-a kind event in North Carolina And it's raising awareness for the sacrifices service men and women and their families make.

The Marine Mud Run in Belmont.. only two words to describe it.. pain and mud.

A five and a half mile competition that competitors say is tougher than a triathalon.

A course that includes push ups in the mud.

More than 30 obstacles and challenges.. this is the duck walk.

All the while having Marines scream at you.. they call it "motivate"

Aaron Harper is the founder and organizer.

"This is what Marines do every week," he says.

Harper comes at it honestly.

A former Marine himself.. he was injured in the line of duty during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

But his injuries revealed to him a need that wasn't being met.

Sure Uncle Sam was taking care of his medical needs but he says, "They don't provide for my family to come down and visit with me while I'm recovering from the surgeries and things of that nature."

Which is where the Marine Mud Run comes in.

Today, Harper and two friends were blazing a trail through the woods in a jungle course.. one of the legs that competitors will race through this weekend on the campus of Belmont Abbey College.

It's an all-volunteer effort that operates on a shoestring budget.

All the profits raised from the teams entry fees goes to support families of injured marines and sailors.

"This is my way of my personal intrinsic way of trying to give back to those Marines and their families to try help them," says Harper.

Now in its third year-- they've made the course harder every year.. this is where the competitors have to duck under the ropes and race through the trees.. but the goal is still the same.

Not just to eat dirt as the t-shirt says, but show everyday people what Marines go through in their training on a routine basis.

And raise awareness of the sacrifice being made in our behalf.

Says Marine Staff Sgt. Rich Turlington, "It shows you have the support there, other than your loved ones and your family. Everyday people you cross in life.. they're supporting you also. You want to have America behind you."

15,000 Marines live in the Charlotte area.  A non-profit group "Carolina Marines" assists in helping organize the mud run.

It's a way of giving back..Harper says, it's Semper Fi "always faithful"

He says, "Our goal is to try to keep everybdoy in the family. Do everything that we can to help each other out.. brothers and sisters.. mothers fathers.. whoever it is."

This is the only Marine Mud Run of its kind in North Carolina.

It's this Saturday at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont.

They'll raise about $15,000 for families of Marines and Sailors.

For more information go to www.CarolinaMarines.org/marinemud