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Alzheimer News 8/29/2008
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Memory Walk goes to Iraq

Troops at Ali Air Base/Contingency Operating Base Adder
in southern Iraq walked to raise more than $24,000
for the Alzheimer's Association.

When Lieutenant Jessica Wright was called to duty in Iraq, she knew her primary focus would be on her mission as a member of the United States Air Force. But Jessica also brought another mission with her to Iraq – her desire to help end Alzheimer’s disease.

Having served as a team captain in the STAR chapter’s Memory Walk in 2007, Lieutenant Wright was familiar with the powerful meaning and strength behind the event. She believed that a Memory Walk held in a deployed location would offer troops a unique way to build community without sacrificing their critical mission focus.  

On Saturday, Aug. 16, Wright and the other members of the 407th Air Expeditionary Group hosted a Memory Walk in southern Iraq. Together, the troops at Ali Air Base/Contingency Operating Base Adder raised more than $24,000 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Our mission is our first priority, and Memory Walk gave us an opportunity to give back without compromising our ability to get the job done,” Wright said.  

Planning and fundraising for a walk in a remote location is not without challenges – all of which Wright and her team of volunteers found ways to overcome. In order to recruit participants, Wright used word of mouth and e-mail.

“I talked to everyone I knew to make sure they were signed up and knew what was going on,” she said. “I probably had people ducking around corners to avoid me!”

Wright’s efforts paid off when more than 250 walkers registered for the event. She attributes the high number of participants to the troops’ close knit bond, strong sense of community service and dedication to fitness.

In order to fundraise, Wright and the other walkers relied on the Memory Walk Web site that they built using online tools provided by the Alzheimer’s Association. 

“The Web site worked wonders, allowing us to send e-mails back home to friends and family who could then donate. I think it really touched people…not only were the soldiers, sailors and airmen here working in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, but they were also doing something to support Alzheimer research. I heard a lot of, ‘If you can be deployed and doing this, the least I can do is donate.’ ” 

The troops began their Memory Walk at 5 a.m., hoping to beat the scorching Iraqi heat. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and provided a slight breeze and a starting temperature of 88 degrees. Wright and her fellow troops walked (or ran) a 6.2 mile course around Ali Air Base, covering part of their flight line and the inner perimeter road. Volunteers from the Force Support Squadron manned rest stops and offered support along the route. 

Wright is still in awe of the event’s success.

“I think participation was so high because of the mentality that we have in the military – service before self.  Each service may call it something slightly different, but essentially it boils down to helping others before helping yourself.”

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Alzheimer's Association

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Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.