By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
When she ran a recent half-marathon in Wisconsin, former Marine Melinda Smith-Swoboda wore on her body the name of a fallen hero—a servicemember who was killed in combat. She ran in honor of his family, to whom she donated her race medal and jersey after the race, to remind them that she was thinking of their loved one, and that his sacrifice would not be forgotten. “At mile seven a guy ran past me and said, ‘Your heroes would be proud.’” She hadn’t expected to get choked up while running.
Smith-Swoboda supports Medals of Honor, a grassroots organization that encourages endurance athletes to remember and spread awareness of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who have died and honor their families. “The military gets ignored a lot,” she said “People continue to live their lives in the civilian world and don’t recognize that we have these people—the highest educated military we’ve ever had—who are dying daily, at the hands of our enemy or by suicide. There’s a real need to remember people.”
That conviction is also what motivates Smith-Swoboda to support the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. Both in her capacity as a former Marine and as a former Marine spouse, Smith-Swoboda volunteered for the Society for many years, accruing more than 1,000 volunteer hours. “I did everything from data entry to helping people with their budgets,” she recalled, adding that she stands strongly behind the work of the Society. “I totally believe in the organization.” She’s shared her affinity for the Society with her daughter, who is an active duty Sailor who has begun volunteering with NMCRS Coronado in San Diego.
Smith-Swoboda lives outside Ft. Worth, Texas, but travels all over the country to run in half-marathons—she’s completed 150 so far. While 13.1 miles seems like a breeze for her, “I’ve done a full marathon and I wasn’t wild about it,” she said. But she is active in the local chapter of a national group for veterans called Team Red, White, and Blue, and her former Mariner friends from the group talked her into joining their Marine Corps Marathon efforts. “As soon as I saw that I could support NMCRS while running, I said, ‘absolutely, I’ll support them!’”
She typically hears this same reaction when she asks former servicemembers, especially Marines or Sailors, for donations to help her reach her $750 MCM fundraising goal. “People know the organization and want to help,” she said.
To support Smith-Swoboda’s efforts on behalf of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, click here: https://donate.nmcrs.org/page/outreach/view/mcm-2015/Melinda