Inaugural 5K run raises funds for veterans

SHAWNEE, Kan. - The first-ever Vets and Pets 5k in Shawnee is helping many veterans deal with the invisible wounds of war.  It's benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project and K9s for Warriors.

At the same time, it's giving back to some of Kansas City's most worthwhile animal shelters in Wayside Waifs and KC Pet Project.

Joseph Potts created the race, partially inspired by his brother, Sergeant First Class Shannon Oliver, who severed two tours overseas.

"There's a lot of veterans that look like they're doing fine deep down there are a lot of wounds you can't see that cut the deepest," said Oliver, who is now retired from the Louisiana National Guard.

The Wounded Warrior Project estimates as many as 52,000 service members have been wounded in conflicts, while an estimated 4,000 military men and women are living with invisible wounds of war, including combat stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, depression and PTSD.
Kim Patro, whose sons both serve in the armed forces, said this is her first run.  She chose it because of the groups it benefits.

"For my own boys I couldn't be more proud of the decisions they have made," said Patro.  "For everybody else and a family perspective, I know my daughter-in-laws have to go through and continue to go through... Every time they are deployed. It's phenomenal what the families do.  To be able to support these guys when they come home, that's what we need to be able to do."

And for many, part of that support comes on four legs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said owning a dog can lift your mood or help you feel less stressed.

"These dogs can be used as therapy dogs, get you through the anxiety.  They can get you through any kind of hard moment you have. Sit down and pet a dog, It's calming," explained Patro.

That's something retired Army Lt. Kernel Bob Krenzel has experienced.

"He's my running buddy.  It's great to have him," Krenzel explained.  He joked about his dog Freckles hopefully pulling him along the course.  "When things are tough we can go to the backyard and throw frisbees. He helps quite a bit."

The main message behind the run: sheltering animals in need and remembering American heroes and taking care of them when they come home.

"When there are wars and conflicts going on its easy to be there to support them. At the end of the day when the conflict is going away those veterans have things they have to deal with long after," said Oliver.

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