"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you invited me in." - Matthew 25:35

 

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The words below of are from Miler Lezleigh Kleibrink.  After reading this, there can be no excuses.

In 2004, my hero and brother, USMC Cpl Casey A. Owens, was blown apart by a double stacked anti-tank mine while serving our country in Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.  We were given a phone call the evening of September 20th, and by the next morning my mother and I were on a plane to Landstuhl, Germany.  Casey had survived and been airlifted, but the prognosis was not good.  When we arrived, I was not prepared for the devastation I was faced with.  His entire body was broken, and both legs were gone…

After a week of keeping him from dying and stabilizing him, we flew back to the States with his medical team and made our way to Bethesda Medical Hospital in MD, and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.  For the next several months, my mother and I lived with him in hospitals, never leaving his side while he began the process of healing.  I am happy to report that while the journey is not complete to his healing, after four years of hard work he is now on prosthetic legs and will be starting college this fall.

While my mother and I were caring for Casey, I began to eat in order to comfort myself.  I gained significant amounts of weight and put myself last—I had others more pressing to take care of.  While watching my brother heal day after day in many ways, and seeing the hard work he had to put into rebuilding his new life and his new body, I began to look at myself.  One big aspect of my brother’s therapy was becoming physically active with the upper body strength he was gaining while being in a wheelchair.  I am proud to say that he completed the Marine Marathon in his hand-crank bicycle in October 2007 with a time of about 2 ˝ hours!  I kept thinking to myself, “If he can do this, why can’t I?  What’s my excuse?”  I kept coming up shorthanded, there were no excuses…

Upon my return home from DC, as well as some tough love from my mother and husband about needing to take a look at who I was and what shape I’d put myself into, I decided that it was time to take care of me.

In January 2008 I set forth goals to honor myself and honor my brother.  I was no longer going to be a slave to food, and I was going to put myself first now that the time had come.  I started down a path of eating better and becoming more physically active.  I began to work with a trainer.  I began taking tae kwon do with my son.  The pounds began to drop, the clothes became big, I began to change inside…a new-found willpower was emerging!

All the while as I was working towards my weight loss goal, I kept thinking to myself about Casey’s victory at the Marine Marathon.  As I watched him, I kept remembering Casey's words to me at one point that cut me to the core...you have both feet--how could I ignore such words?  I was amazed at his hard work, his determination, his drive.  And I kept repeating to myself, “If he can do this, why can’t I?  What’s my excuse?”  It was time for the excuses to stop, it was time for action. 

In December 2008, I told my family that I had set a new goal for myself.  In 2009 I was going to complete a half marathon in honor of Casey.  I looked to Luke’s Locker of Colleyville for help, and was welcomed with open arms to their running family, even as a beginner.  I started training with The Beat Goes On program in January 2009, and cried as I completed my first three mile run with complete success at the end of the spring.  I “graduated” to the FIT program, joining the Red Team in the Half Marathon training program, and am pounding the pavement diligently with my teammates and coaches every week.  I completed the White Rock Half in December 2009, crossing the finish line hand in hand with Casey, with my running partner, Kristi and my mentor, Steve.  It was one of the proudest moments in my life.

I am now a part of the 2010 BGO Red Group Halfbeat program, with the goal of completing a half marathon every month in 2010, completing the Marine Corps Half in May, and my first full marathon in October with Casey at the Marine Corps Marathon.

 Every step I take, I take to honor Casey and his hard work, determination and drive as he continues on with his new life.  I honor Casey in gratitude for his service and dedication to his God, his country and his family in protecting us and keeping us safe, as well as those in Iraq he protected and strived to make a better life for them.  I strive to bring awareness to the needs of all of our veterans as they return back from service.  I honor Casey for the sacrifice he gave of himself, and for his heroism to us all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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