Running for resilience

  • Published
  • By Mauricio Campino, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the men and women of the United States Air Force remain dedicated to defending the nation. Surprisingly, the Air Force is currently losing more Airmen to suicide than combat. This past summer Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed unit commanders around the world to hold a “resilience tactical pause” to listen to Airmen and hopefully, get them the help they need.
Merriam Webster defines resilience as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. To increase resilience, some people turn to physical fitness.

In 2015, Master Sgt. Trevor Derr, 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-17 production superintendent, lost a close friend, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Swaney, to suicide. In 2018, after failing to keep a new year’s resolution, he started running to honor his friend’s memory, honor veterans and raise awareness of PTSD. Derr found the painful loss and cherished memories of his friend could serve as motivation to accomplish his fitness goals.

“That was the ultimate motivator,” said Derr. “I ran every single day for three months straight.”

Derr still tries to run as often as his work and school schedule allow. You can typically see Derr running around Dover AFB during his lunch break, easily recognizable because of the American flag he carries over his shoulder. He’s participated in several 10k runs in Delaware and was invited to be a core runner in the 2019 New Jersey Run for the Fallen.

On Sept. 12, 2019, Derr helped plan and host a run on Dover AFB with a very special guest, Cathy Powers, a Gold Star mom from Monroe, N.C. Powers’ son, Senior Airman Bryce K. Powers, died in 2013 as the result of a car accident. Following the death of her son in 2013, Powers struggled with grief and found herself in a hopeless state of depression. Turning to food for comfort, she gained weight, at one point reaching almost 300 pounds.

“My story is a story of resiliency. I figured I’d never have a good life again … I’m too old, it’s too late. Bryce lost his life and I’m losing mine,” said Powers. “I actually didn’t notice a change in my life until I started giving back.”

Powers started running to honor her son’s memory and the sacrifice of fallen veterans. Her “Running Fir Wreaths” mission, a subset of “Wreaths across America” has taken her all over the country. So far in 2019, Powers has run 749 miles across 44 states. Her goal is to accomplish 1,000 miles across the entire country. Through these efforts, Powers is 140 pounds lighter.

With the help of Derr, Powers made Delaware her 44th state as she brought her running campaign to Dover AFB. A group of Airmen, Soldiers and Marines ran alongside Powers for approximately four miles from the base to the Legislative Hall in downtown Dover, where she presented a wreath in honor of Delaware veterans and spoke before a crowd. During the run, participants were escorted by the Dover Police Department, the Delaware State Police, Delaware Department of Transportation and members of the American Legion.

Two days later, on Sept. 13, Powers completed her visit to Dover with a run along the Dover AFB flightline and a wreath presentation to thirty-five Gold Star Families attending the base’s air show. Powers asked to present the wreath to the families to ensure they knew they weren’t alone.

“Never feel that your struggle is less than the struggle of your fellow Airman … people care,” said Derr. “I hope that when people see me out there running they’re reminded of that.”