WOODBRIDGE, Conn. — Alex Chiodo won’t enter the military until he graduates from the University of Delaware in two years, but he and six other cadets already are going the extra mile to improve relations between civilians and veterans.
Make that 1,600 miles.
Chiodo, a graduate of Hamden Hall Country Day School, and fellow cadets left Saturday for the 1,600-mile run from Newark, Delaware — the first entity which the Army had to defend — to Houston, Texas, where the highest concentration of veterans have retired.
“It’s definitely a large task to be undertaking. We’re hydrating, we’re praying,” Chiodo said. “We’re very confident, we love what we’re doing and it’s a good cause.”
The seven cadets and an eighth who is helping, but not running, have formed a group, “Reviresco” — Latin for renewal — and are calling the fundraiser “Reviresco Run.”
Their goal during stops in major cities will be to raise awareness of the importance of civilian/veteran relationships, as well as $50,000 to donate to two programs that work to bridge the gap between the groups.
The run’s proceeds will go to the organizations “Got Your 6” and “Team Red, White and Blue.”
Six of those running are from University of Delaware and the other, Micah Petersen, who came up with the idea for the group, is a former student there who since has transferred to West Point.
Already aware of the need for better relations between civilians and veterans, Petersen came up with the idea for the run after reading an article in Forbes Magazine about how Houston, his hometown, has the most retired veterans of any U.S. city. He immediately drew the historical connection back to Delaware where he has so many friends.
A few phone calls to his buddies and the “Reviresco Run” became a mission.
Petersen said the divide between civilians and veterans widened years ago when the draft stopped and it’s partly because civilians don’t understand the scope of the humanitarian work of the military.
Most people get a limited version of the military through the media reporting casualties and other crises, he said.
“The way the military is often portrayed is as if it’s this huge killing machine,” Petersen said. But, “the military is a society within a society,” and their role includes functions such as chemical research and agricultural development.
The groups they are running to benefit bring civilians and veterans together in different ways.
According to the “Got Your 6” website, the organization unites the entertainment industry with top veteran-focused nonprofit, with the goal of bridging the civilian-military divide by “creating a new conversation in America, so that veterans and military families are perceived as leaders and civic assets.”
“Team Red, White & Blue” aims to do the same, but through physical and social activities.
“You can pass policy, legislation, but the way you form bonds is by spending time together,” Petersen said, adding that interpersonal contact is what “changes the perception.”
Chiodo, who will be a sophomore at University of Delaware, is majoring in international business with a minor in Italian. As an ROTC cadet, Chiodo receives military training along with the regular academic courses and will enter the Army as a second lieutenant upon graduation.
Chiodo, who does not come from a military background, said he didn’t want a traditional day job and, after hearing how the military can make you a “stronger person,” decided to go that route.
“It’s absolutely great,” he said. “Once you’re done with the Army, having the title of being a veteran is rewarding.”
The young men left Saturday and plan to get to Houston Aug. 9, where they’ll stay for the day before returning home to various parts of the country.
They plan to cover 100 to 130 miles a day with each cadet running 15 miles in five-mile increments. They will have a recreational vehicle to transport the cadets to each running start point. They will also be accompanied by the Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists best known for guarding against the Westboro Baptist Church protestors at veterans’ funerals.
The route they’ve chosen is east of the Appalachians so they will avoid treacherous terrain.
Chiodo said they are all using their “faith” to help guide them and he is so excited that “Saturday can’t come soon enough.”
For more information, or to donate, visit www.crowdrise.com/Reviresco/fundraiser/micahpetersen.