As thousands of out-of-town guests arrived by car and plane in Dallas, Texas for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, one Marine Corps veteran, Brendan O’Toole, arrived by a less conventional route. So unconventional, as it happened, that several people wanted to learn more. And among those interested in hearing about the circumstances leading up to O’Toole’s arrival was none other than President George W. Bush.
“Not many people decide to run 3,600 miles across the country,” remarked O’Toole to Breitbart Sports.
“Marines always make a good entrance,” he added.
Inspired to raise awareness and support for fellow combat servicemen and servicewomen by running across the country, O’Toole started his mission from Oceanside, California last November on Veteran’s Day. And 1,500 miles and 5 months later, he arrived in Dallas to complete the first half of his cross country run.
For O’Toole, the 24 year-old who founded The Run For Veterans (TRFV), meeting President Bush signified a turning point and further validated his cause to support the “well being of our heroes.”
“It was a pep talk…a halftime speech,” noted Sergeant O’Toole, characterizing his meeting. “Actually, it was the ultimate halftime speech!”
He added, “It absolutely fired up the TRFV team.”
The idea for TRFV arose out of O’Toole’s own experiences in the military. Before leaving for his final tour in Afghanistan, O’Toole began to notice the effects the war was having on some of his fellow veterans.
As he observed, “You could see my friends after deployments having difficulties coping once home and you could see how it affected their families. They were all in need of help, but they never asked.”
Because O’Toole understood he lacked the training to provide his fellow soldiers with the necessary professional support, he instead began considering other ways he might help. The answer came to him one day while he was in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“It was instant, it just clicked.” said O’Toole. “My ability to run could and should be used to help others.”
After completing his four year enlistment in the Marines last June, O’Toole began planning The Run For Veterans.
TRFV is a 3,600-mile run across the United States of America–and it has a goal of raising $2 million dollars that will be going to support three nonprofit veteran focused groups: Team Red White and Blue, the USO, and Give an Hour.
O’Toole averages 15 miles a day and is helped by a team on the road and by countless others from his hometown of Alexandria, VA., such as Jack Taylor, whose Toyota dealership is sponsoring his conspicuously camouflaged Tundra truck emblazoned with the TRFV logo.
Additional help has also come from great folks along the road like Mike and Joanne Travis from Post, Texas, who invited the TRFV team over for an Easter dinner and the Thompson family from Roanoke, TX, who opened their home and offered to do the team’s laundry.
“It was special because they all made us feel like we were family,” said O’Toole.
Notwithstanding the previous help and support he had received, there is no question that O’Toole’s halftime meeting with President Bush was a major source of encouragement and a real sign of progress.
“President Bush’s words of support were a big morale boost and it was a proud moment for The Run for Veterans,” said O’Toole.
He continued, “To have anything but respect and admiration for President Bush and his commitment to veterans is impossible. It’s contagious.”
Given the obligations and preparations that week, and moreover, given the dignitaries turning up around Dallas, O’Toole was struck by President Bush’s willingness to clear time on his schedule.
“During one of his busiest weeks and everything that must have been on his plate, for him to make that time, it meant a lot to us, but really, it says everything about President Bush.”
“He never made us feel like we were talking with a president but with someone who was genuinely interested to learn about how we’re holding up and it reinvigorated me to keep running and with even more purpose,” emphasized O’Toole.
“It reassured what TRFV is doing to help our veterans, and I hope it will reassure everyone that we can do this.”
Apparently, President Bush’s “halftime speech” worked. On leaving Texas this past Sunday, O’Toole churned-out 72 miles in 20 hours, a remarkable athletic feat of endurance for a remarkable cause.
More exclusive pics of TRFV with President Bush in addition to the latest TRFV can be seen here.
Photo Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Center