CAMP PENDLETON – Tulsa-native Marine Corps Major William Conner says he knows that with great challenges come great rewards. That’s why he is committed to raise the noteworthy amount of $17,750 for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund before the start of the 34th annual Marine Corps Marathon to be held in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 25.
Conner, assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force, says he could have easily raised $1,775 — a dollar amount some fundraisers use to commemorate the year the Marine Corps was founded. In fact, he probably could have written the check himself. But that wouldn’t be much of a challenge, he says, and it wouldn’t adequately express his desire to honor this country’s fallen and injured service members, while still helping a worthy cause.
“Lots of people are hurting in this economy and so are quite a few organizations,” says Conner, who will be one of more than 30,000 runners to toe the line for the 7:50 a.m. start of the marathon.
“Donations are down everywhere this year. I set the bar pretty high to inspire people to give so that organizations like the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund could continue doing all the good things they do for our men and women in uniform.”
It was a little more than a year ago that Conner says he was inspired to set the lofty goal and to work to raise awareness for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund (IMSFF). Since its inception five years ago, the IMSFF www.semperfifund.org has issued more than 16,000 grants totaling more than $33 million, to aid Marines, Sailors, other qualifying servicemembers and their families.
“Before then, I didn’t even know about them (IMSFF), but I did a little research and found out they do a lot of good things for Marines who are injured while they are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Some guys come home injured and their families need help, sometimes it’s making their rent payments, or even getting to and from the hospital to visit their Marine. This organization does so much to help Marines and their families, I just felt I could do something help them keep up the good work.”
The 1995 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) was Conner’s first, the 2009 edition will be his fourth, and his 12th marathon overall. Thus far, his efforts have raised more than $11,200 — about 63-percent of his goal.
“As we get closer to the race, I think there will be a lot more contributions coming in,” said Conner.
“I’m only slightly concerned that I won’t reach the goal before the start of the race. There are a lot of people out there, that once they see what I’m trying to do, I think they will want to donate to the cause.”
Adding to monetary challenge Conner has taken on, is one of a physical nature. While most participants in the Marine Corps Marathon will likely be outfitted in the most modern running gear designed to deliver comfort and speed, Conner, a ’95 graduate of the Naval Academy, will be attired in “boots and utes,” for the 26.2-mile run.
“It won’t be the first time I’ve run a marathon in ‘boots and utes.’ I did the Ironman Hawaii wearing them, and I did it for a reason. I had hoped that when people saw me running by in ‘boots and utes,’ it would help them remember all of the sacrifices that Marines are making every day,” said Conner.
“I also wore them to honor my three classmates from the Naval Academy who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last several years; LCDR Erik Kristensen, Major Megan McClung, and Major Doug Zembiec.
“Sometimes people forget that we’ve still got a lot of Marines deployed and serving their country, and protecting our freedoms. Hopefully, when they see the boots and the uniform at the marathon this year, they’ll take a moment to remember.”
Conner says he’ll be wearing standard Marine Corps-issue type boots during the race, but with one simple add-on.
“Wearing boots while running a marathon can be a little hard on the feet,” he says, “that’s why I’ll be wearing my Dr. Scholl’s insoles. They should help a bunch – it can be a long run without them”
Beyond the ‘boots and utes’ he’ll don for the MCM, Conner says he has a bit of a surprise prepared for the race.
“I can’t say what it is because that would spoil the surprise, but it will be a bit interesting,” says Conner, who would tip his hand if a fat-cat donor wanted some insider information, and sought to step up and help him quickly reach his goal.
“If there’s someone out there that wanted to contribute enough to meet the goal today — and it would probably take about $5,000 or so at this point — I’d gladly let them in on the surprise,” Conner said.
“They would be the only one to know ahead of time, so if it is worth it for them to be the in the know, then I’d let them in on the surprise. It would be great to have that kind of help to reach the goal.”
To contribute to Conner’s effort, visit www.rifleman17750.info or www.active.com/donate/teamsemperfi09/Rifleman17750.
To donate to and support the IMSFF visit www.semperfifund.org .
For more information about the Marine Corp Marathon visit www.marinemarathon.com or send a message to e-mail.marine.marathon.usmc.mil.