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Mario V. Carpanzano Combat vet defends 5K

May 24, 2019

Adapt or die. It’s that simple folks.

Let me tell you a story. Way back in 2005 American Service members were being blow up at an incredible rate by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on the city streets and highways of Iraq. First, we stopped patrolling on foot when possible and drove vehicles. So they started putting the bombs on the side of the road. Then we put armor on the doors, so they put the IEDs in the middle of the street. So we armored under the trucks. Then one day the insurgents started using thermal sensors, so when the heat from the engine block was sensed the bomb would explode.

So now what? What do you do when everything you have done in the past does not work? We adapt.

A young U.S. Army engineer had an idea: Wire an engine glow plug to the battery and hang it off the front of our trucks with a broomstick. This way, the thermal sensor will go off about 5 feet in front of the truck. It worked so well it became a policy for every vehicle in the country to have what they called a “Rhino” because it resembled a single horn coming off the front of the truck. The Rhino, along with other crazy ideas, saved the lives of so many of us. Because someone refused to keep the status quo.

What does that story have to do with a 5K and a parade in Stamford?

Everything.

I don’t hate parades, I just hate them for Memorial Day. All the people for whom this day is for cannot march in a parade. Who are we honoring then? Who is this parade for? All of us who made it home? We have a day, it’s in November. And we should have a parade on that day!

So then why is a race a better choice? Well, as a good friend said to me when I told him about the debate over a 5K — Times they are a changin’!

The modern military — the .05 percent of the U.S. population that serves and fights, and the even less than that who have joined from Stamford — are warrior-athletes. From the infantryman, to the truck driver, to the payroll clerk; they all have made fitness a part of their daily life. They run, do crossfit, play sports, become Jiu Jitsu black belts and compete in triathlons. Because they all know, to be fit for combat is just as important as knowing their job. When our service members come home; to aid in their transition we need to give them events that give them the opportunity to do something they are familiar with but also involves the community. What better way then a fitness event.

Sacrifice. That is my other reason. On a day that is better known for its sales, hot dogs and hamburgers and the unofficial first day of summer, I think we can sacrifice our body for a few hours, to feel some insignificant amount of the hardship that Gold Star families, friends and fellow service members felt when they got word that their son, daughter, brother, sister, husband or wife were not coming home.

One sunny day in April 2013 I loaded four of our wounded on to a helicopter in the middle of Afghanistan. We put three more of my brothers later that day into the bird to take the long trip home after they paid the Ultimate Sacrifice. I think we can all sacrifice a little in their memory.

I’ll see you on Memorial Day.

You can sign up to run or volunteer at http://bit.ly/2M6vnu1

Mario V. Carpanzano

Captain, U.S. Army

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran

Operation Enduring Freedom veteran

Stamford resident

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