When American combat veteran Jim Beckenhaupt, (warrior name: "Groucho") returned from the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, he was greeted with the protests of a nation divided by war. Witness to many horrors and lives lost, Groucho took up running as a way to heal his body and soul.
"Running helped me with, well, I might as well say it my post-traumatic stress disorder in 1974 and '75," says Beckenhaupt.
Under the auspices of the 900-member-strong Pikes Peak Road Runners, he has organized the first annual Veterans' Home Run, scheduled for July 2 in Memorial Park.
"[When I began running], it was the first time I felt good about myself after returning from Vietnam. We got beat up bad, from both sides it seemed."
Beckenhaupt envisions the run as a way to raise awareness of the needs of returning Iraq war veterans, as well as funds for a local program aimed at helping all veterans struggling with drug and alcohol issues or homelessness. Crawford House, a rehabilitation program managed by the Veterans Resource Coalition, will receive all funds raised.
"I want people to see that veterans need help not to put a political twist on the rightness or wrongness of the war," says Beckenhaupt.
He hopes the run also will serve as a "Welcome Home" to local vets who've gone to Iraq.
"Whenever I see a GI I know has just returned, I buy them a beer," he says. "Nobody bought me a beer to welcome me home."
For more information on the run, call 636-2696.
1st Annual Veterans' Home Run 5K Run and 3K Walk
Saturday, July 2, 6 a.m. registration and packet pick- up, 7 a.m. race start
Memorial Park Velodrome, Colorado Springs
$12 entry fee includes T-shirt;