Empowering Healthy Veterans 5K USC Aiken

Ramona Rush, left, Jessica Molidor, Travis Hardee, Kaitlyn Baxa, Robert Murphy, Dustin Thomas and Brett Fessler make plans for the Empowering Healthy Veterans 5K, which will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Roberto Hernandez Stadium at USC Aiken. USCA's Student Veterans Organization and the Office of Veteran and Military Student Success are sponsors of the race.

In honor of Veterans Day, USC Aiken's Student Veterans Organization and the Office of Veteran and Military Student Success will hold the first Empowering Healthy Veterans 5K at 10 a.m. Saturday at Roberto Hernandez Stadium.

“We want to promote the healthy veteran,” said Brett Fessler, a junior nursing major and the president of the Student Veterans Organization. “We want people to come and normalize back and be a robust and amazing citizen. That's the end goal of our vision. They'll be moving, grooving, meeting some new people. Hopefully, it will be a great event.”

The race is open to runners and walkers. The registration fee is $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the race. The cost for all students is $10 if they register in advance and present their IDs at the event.

All proceeds will go to the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation. The foundation is “a veteran-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving military veterans and service members living with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) throughout the United States,” according to the organization’s website.

Registration and information booths will open at 8:30 a.m. Ramona Rush, a first-year nursing student who teaches a class at USCA's Wellness Center, will lead the runners in a Zumba routine to warm up before the race.

To register, visit active.com and search “healthy veteran.”

In addition to honoring veterans, the race will showcase USCA's campus, Fessler said.

“We wanted to do a race that shows off the campus and just how beautiful it is,” said Fessler, who was an airborne infantryman in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. “Racers will come by the dorms, come on the quad, see the fountain out front. They'll run through the campus and see everything here at USCA.”

The halfway point in the race will be USCA's newly renovated entrance on University Parkway. The race will start and end at Roberto Hernandez Stadium.

Robert A. Murphy, the director of the Office of Veteran and Military Student Success, said higher education is a “great place” for veterans to make the transition to civilian life.

“We are aiming to support the healthy veteran: your mind, your soul, your body in making the healthy transition from the military into the civilian population,” he said.

The “Military Times Best for Vets” recently recognized USCA as the No. 1 Best for Vets university in South Carolina and among the top 100 universities in the country for the fourth year in a row, Murphy said.

“No other South Carolina school even shows up in the top 100 list,” Murphy said.

Currently, almost 14% of the student body at USCA is made up of veteran and military-related students, according to a news release from the university. On campus, the VMSS provides holistic support to veteran and military students, ensuring their continued success as they pursue their educational and personal goals.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.