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Former Navy SEAL makes 1,700-mile journey to honor veterans
May 25th, 2012
12:25 PM ET

Former Navy SEAL makes 1,700-mile journey to honor veterans

When many Americans kick off the start of summer with burgers and beers for Memorial Day, one former Navy SEAL will be in the final stretch of a 1,700-mile, month-long cross-country journey.

Coleman Ruiz, executive director of Carry The Load, is just one of many veterans making the hike to drive attention and resources to organizations that help surviving military families. They hope it will remind communities of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

In 2011, Clint Bruce, former Navy SEAL, co-founded Carry The Load as a way to honor fallen service members and to remember surviving military families. In its second year, Carry The Load is taking a two-fold approach to fundraising.

Beginning in West Point, New York, communities were invited to participate in the 1,700-mile national relay, which was divided into 5-mile segments. On top of that, the national trek will conclude in Dallas with a nonstop 20-hour, 12-minute walk on Memorial Day.

"It's about putting one foot in front of the other," said Ruiz, who invites individuals from local communities to participate by walking as much or as little as they can. "Walk a mile or walk 50 miles. But just come out and do what every single family across the country who has lost an American service member does. All those families get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. It's the least we can do to show them that we care."

Ruiz knows personally the pain of losing a loved one. In 2007, one of his best friends, Maj. Doug Zembiec, was killed in Baghdad while leading a combat operation.

"There isn't another human being that I've met who can lead men the way Doug could," Ruiz said.


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February 24th, 2012
11:56 AM ET

Kennedy: recovery is a ‘day to day process’

Washington (CNN) – On Friday, Former Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy opened up about his lifelong battle with addiction, asserting that recovery is still a "day to day process." Kennedy is son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and nephew of President John F. Kennedy. He left public office last year after eight terms in the U.S. House.

In an interview set to air on CNN's John King, USA, Kennedy tells Congressional Correspondent Kate Bolduan that leaving public office was the right decision. "For me, I needed to reduce the number of stressors in my life in order to let recovery take hold.” Kennedy adds, “My Dad was able to balance a private and public life and I was less successful in trying to do that."

Kennedy emphasizes the importance of family support when seeking help and attributes much of his sobriety to his growing family: "There's nothing better than love and another human connection to help keep you thinking of the future and working everyday to make that future better by living for today." Last March, Kennedy announced his engagement to New Jersey school teacher Amy Petitgout.

Since leaving the political spotlight, Kennedy spends much of his time as an advocate for mental health parity and addiction equity, discouraging health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals suffering from a mental illness. "Addiction affects everybody," he says, "We need to treat it as a medical issue not as a moral issue."

Kennedy recently launched the One Mind for Research campaign which strives to cure brain disorders and eliminate discrimination within 10 years. One Mind for Research brings together scientists, philanthropists and policy makers from across the country to collaborate on research in order to find cures for disorders like Alzheimer’s, addiction and depression. “It’s all the brain,” says Kennedy, “but unfortunately, our efforts to study the brain are often fragmented.”

When asked about whether he would ever run for public office again, Kennedy told Bolduan, “In the future, when I have a family and I have some long-term recovery, I might be able to look at other ways to serve that might be more public.”

To see the full interview tune in tonight to CNN’s John King, USA at 6 pm ET.

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Politicians’ digital advertising up 100%
January 6th, 2012
12:18 PM ET

Politicians’ digital advertising up 100%

Today, this article on Mashable caught our attention. A new survey released by STRATA found that politicians have dramatically increased their spending on digital advertisements. Political candidates have spent 100% more to buy ads on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in 2011-2012 compared to 2010. 92% of respondents said Facebook was their “top social medium of choice” for the advertisements, with Twitter coming in second. What do you think? How much do digital ads impact your choice for a candidate? Post your comments here!

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Run While You Can: 100 Marathons in 60 Days
Source: Run While You Can
August 18th, 2011
12:30 PM ET

Run While You Can: 100 Marathons in 60 Days

By CNN's Bethany Crudele

Through the bloody knees of training, blistered feet and dehydration, Sam Fox is running to break a world record for one reason: His mother. "It's kind of like a big, 'I love you Mom.' I'm sure she'd rather I write a card than destroy my knees." At the end of August, Fox will begin one of the most challenging journeys of his life.

The 24-year-old Rhode Island native plans to run/hike all 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to break the current speed record of 65 days. The Pacific Crest Trail stretches along the Western Seaboard from Canada to Mexico. Fox will cover more than 40 miles each day for two consecutive months with an average daily elevation gain and loss of over 16,000 feet.

Fox is running to honor his mother, Lucy, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago. Fox is the founder of Run While You Can, a foundation which affirms that, "a healthy tomorrow is promised to anyone, by creating awareness and financial support for events that emphasize the urgency of living fully today." During his journey, he hopes to raise $250,000 dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Part of his challenge will be fueling his body along the trail. “I don’t want to carry a bunch of pasta or bananas. That’s inefficient because I have to carry it all,” says Fox. “I’m going to rely on lightweight and high density foods like protein bars and muscle milk. Those are calories that will add up and they’ll add up fast.”

With less than two weeks before his start date, Fox is undergoing intense preparation. He splits his time between hours in a Berkeley, California gym and along rugged terrain for more intensive elevation training in places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. Fox says the preparation is, “more of a mind game than anything else.”

His regimen of intentional pre-trail dehydration and food depravation is a way of preparing his muscles for the difficulties he’ll encounter when he starts. “I know it’s not healthy. I don’t suggest anyone do it but the reason I do it is to feel terrible so I can call upon this feeling for motivation when I’m actually doing the run and things are hopefully going a lot better.”

Fox will be accompanied by an RV along 38 support points in order to replenish his food and water supply. The longest distance between support points will be 195 miles. Fox will be entirely reliant on himself to carry food, water and sleeping gear for the four day stretch.

Beyond the physical challenge of the trail, Fox will also be forced to follow a strict caloric diet with a minimum of 1000 calories at breakfast just to sustain his day’s activity. Lunch and snacks will be constant with foods like jerky, nuts and granola bars, followed by a 3,000 calorie dinner of powdered protein drinks, carbs and energy bars.

"I don't know how I decided on this. I've regretted it every now and then," he says. "I know 99% of the population can't relate to what I'm doing." Fox hopes this experience will aid in raising not only money, but awareness for Parkinson's disease.

Fox says his mother, Lucy – like many others suffering from the disease – is forced to take an abundance of medications, has trouble sleeping and deals with daily discomfort. “Yet, she is still so unmistakably herself. Her gardens certainly haven’t noticed that she’s sick. From potatoes to broccoli, pumpkins to garlic, cucumbers to tomatoes, it’s all there, it’s all healthy, it’s all perfectly tended,” he says. “You might think, on first and even second glance, that perhaps a team of 10 experts works around the clock weeding, trimming, mowing and watering… it’s just Mom (Dad mans the rototiller on the weekends) and her unmatched affinity for truly hard work.”

Gardening has always been a part of Lucy’s life, having grown up on a 60-acre farm in Connecticut, where she developed her craft. Until last year, she was selling self-grown flower arrangements to local supermarkets. “The fact that she still [gardens] daily says something about her resilience and drive to ignore her medical issues,” says Fox.

Fox still has quite a way to go before he reaches his fund-raising goals and more than 2,000 miles of trail ahead of him. To date, his fund-raising efforts have netted more than $70,000.

Fox says it’s the lessons of hard work and toughness –learned while helping tend to his mother’s flower beds and vegetable gardens— that will help him push through the long days and nights of solitude on the trail. “It’s those lessons that will carry me through cold, rain, blisters and breaks, steeps, mud and racking exhaustion, for 2,650 miles with at the least an ironic smile.”

To learn more about Run While You Can click here.

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June 30th, 2011
01:50 PM ET

Secretary Gates Awarded Medal of Freedom

On his last day as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates received surprise honors during a farewell ceremony at the Pentagon. "Bob, this is not in the program but I would ask you to please stand," said President Obama. "The highest honor I can bestow on a civilian is the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It speaks to the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a nation," he continued, presenting Gates with the prestigious award.

"It is a big surprise. But we should have known a couple of months ago you'd get pretty good at this covert ops stuff," joked Gates following the President's presentation.

After a series of farewell events, including a dinner hosted by President Obama and the First Lady at the White House Thursday evening, Secretary Gates will end his four decade-long civil service career. "Becky, we're really going home this time," he said turning toward his wife during Thursday’s outdoor ceremony. Former CIA Director, Leon Panetta will assume the duties of Secretary of Defense following Gates' retirement.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon distributed a farewell message from Gates to "all U.S. military personnel, active and reserve, around the world."

"For four and a half years, I have signed the orders deploying you, all too often into harm's way. This has weighed on me every day. I have known about and felt your hardship, your difficulties, your sacrifice more than you can possibly imagine," the statement read.

Known for his emotional and often candid comments when speaking to the troops, Gates thanked America's service members one last time during Thursday's ceremony, "Looking forward to this moment, I knew it would be very difficult for me to adequately express my feelings for these young men and women at least in a way that would allow me to get through this speech," he said. "I'll just say here that I will think of these young warriors, the ones who fought, the ones who keep on fighting, the ones who never made it back until the end of my days," he continued.

Gates, who has served under eight presidents during his career, provided one suggestion for incoming Secretary Panetta: "My parting advice for Leon is to get his office just the way he likes it, he may be here longer than he thinks."

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May 20th, 2011
03:49 PM ET

Huntsman: 'There's always other alternatives'


(CNN) – Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has yet to make a formal announcement that he might be running for president, but tells CNN's John King, if voters don't like him, "there's always other alternatives."

In an interview set to air on John King, USA at 7PM E.T., Huntsman asserts he's "for civil unions" and doesn't mind being criticized by some conservatives for his past record of supporting equal rights for gay couples. "I'm for traditional marriage but I comes to equality and fairness," and he challenged unconvinced conservatives to look at his "total record".

"Like every person who's been elected to office and tried to do things, some things you'll like and some things you won't."

In April, Huntsman came under harsh criticism from his opponents after a series of letters he wrote to Pres. Obama were leaked. The letters, written in August of 2009, refer to Pres. Obama as a "remarkable leader" and give praise for Pres. Clinton's "brilliant analysis of world events".

Asked whether Huntsman believes he can be the GOP's pick for a nominee in light of his revealing comments toward a Democratic president, Huntsman dismisses the criticism, asserting, "I believe in civility. I believe we ought to have a civil discourse in this country. You're not going to agree with people 100% of the time but when they succeed and do things that are good, you can compliment them."

To see the full interview, tune in tonight at 7PM ET.

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April 12th, 2011
10:35 PM ET

New military-family initiative is 'a matter of national security'

Today, President Obama announced the launch of “Joining Forces”, a national campaign that focuses on connecting military families with their communities. The initiative will encourage businesses to hire military families, assist schools with support systems for children of military parents and lend a hand to citizens willing to reach out to service members in their community through small acts of kindness.

During a ceremony at The White House, President Obama and Vice President Biden delivered remarks to a room full of military brass, veterans, current service members and their loved ones.

The White House will partner with corporations like Walmart, Sears, Siemens and Cisco to develop a better framework for hiring military veterans and their relatives. “Joining Forces” will also focus on career development and help establish military family-friendly work environments once individuals are placed.

“These families, these remarkable families, are the force behind the force. They too are the reason we’ve got the finest military in the world,” said President Obama. “This is a matter of national security. It’s not just the right to do, but also makes this country stronger,” he continued.

The President and Vice President weren’t alone in their efforts. First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden also spoke at the event. “Unlike our troops, military families don’t wear uniforms so we don’t always see them but like our troops, these families are proud to serve and they don’t complain,” said the First Lady.

The President asserted that his administration continues to work on developing and promoting programs that help ease deployments during and after service. “My administration is working to implement nearly 50 specific commitments to improve the lives of military families. Everything from protecting families from financial scams to improving education for military kids and spouses, to stepping up our fight to end homelessness among veterans.”

To learn more about the “Joining Forces” initiative click here. Feel free to visit and submit an iReport to share how you’re getting involved and helping military families in your community.

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