MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
With aircraft taking off from adjacent runways, gathering beneath a slate-gray sky, nearly 1,000 runners, joggers, walkers and stroller pushing parents came together for one purpose: to commemorate and stand with survivors of sexual assault.
With plenty of cheering, sweating, sprinting and plodding, all participants in the Cherry Point and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Sexual Assault Awareness Month Commemorative 5K crossed the finish line along Rifle Range Road here. The significance of the event was marked by the number participants who ran the 3.1 mile course and underscores 2nd MAW and Cherry Point’s commitment to eliminating the scourge of sexual assault within the Corps.
The event was kicked off with opening remarks from Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general of 2nd MAW, who spoke to participants about the importance of taking action.
“If you have an opportunity to eradicate this horrendous crime I need you to act immediately,” said Hedelund, addressing the crowd. “It’s not easy, I get that, but it is our responsibility. You are my brothers and sisters, we are brothers and sisters, and we take care of each other.”
With an estimated 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact across the active duty military services during 2012, a decrease to 19,000 during 2014 is a marked improvement; however, it is only just a start, according to Hedelund.
“Don’t assume someone else is going to do it,” said Hedelund. “We have all had the training on stepping in and stepping up. We all know we have a role.”
Events like the SAAM Commemorative 5K highlight the Marine Corps’ commitment as it continues to respond and work toward a fleet devoid of sexual assault. The event’s organizer and Cherry Point Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Dr. Jeannie Adair, does not underestimate the task of eliminating sexual assault and other unwanted sexual contact but believes events like the 5K unite Marines, Sailors and DOD civilians with a common purpose.
"We held this 5K event today to raise awareness of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and bring light to the issue,” said Adair. “This is the second time we have hosted this event. Last year we only had 350 participants; this year we had nearly 1,000, so it's a great success. An event like this provides the service members of 2nd MAW and Cherry Point the opportunity to work together with the one team one fight mentality.”
Adair, who is responsible for Cherry Point’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Respone program, hopes the 5K will become an annual event and a living representation of Cherry Point and 2nd MAW’s resolve to stand with the survivors, both men and women, currently serving on active duty.
"April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and by hosting the 5K, we can promote the issue and also bring to light the statistics and information about prevention,” said Adair. “Events like this really bring people together to support the cause and talk about sexual violence and ways to prevent it."
For more information about the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, visit http://sapr.mil/index.php