ShokzStar Sandy Stiner
ShokzStar Sandy Stiner
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ShokzStar Sandy Stiner

When I was 18 years old, I knew how to fire a machine gun and throw hand grenades, but I didn’t have a clue how to do my own laundry. Mom always took care of the wash, but Uncle Sam showed me how to be a soldier. I enlisted in the US Army Reserve shortly after high school. I had three career choices: cook, generator repairman, or heavy construction equipment operator. Well, only one of those three sounded even remotely fun, so I learned how to drive bulldozers, road graders, scrapers, and, my favourite, the front-end loader. My time in the military was served doing things such as building bridges and airport runways. In basic training, I was a squad leader. At my reserve unit, I was the equipment section sergeant,  handling things such as driver education training and licensing of army personnel on various types of construction machinery. In total, I was in the Army for eight years.  

While in training, I learned important skills such as teamwork, responsibility, and how to be mentally tough. I aced the physical fitness tests and once held the sit-up record in Ft. Dix, NJ, for the most amount of sit-ups in two minutes for a female. We also did things such as rappelling and, my favourite, the road march. They would have us gear up in our full uniform, including combat boots, rucksack (basically an army backpack to carry all your clothes, water, food, tent, sleeping bag, shovel, rain gear, first aid supplies, and toiletries; this could weight nearly 20 pounds), and rifle, along with everything you would need for a bivouac (camping without the s’mores). We would hike for 28 to 32 kilometres at a time in all kinds of terrain and weather to get to our destination for the night, then hike back the next day. Little did I know that this would be the start of my passion for long-distance running.

Shortly after I got home from training one summer, I did my first half marathon. It seemed way easier to do that kind of distance in running shoes and not wearing a pack or rifle. Not too long after that, I discovered the marathon. Then, as I like to say, “The sickness began.” In the years since then, I have finished 85 races of marathon distance or longer, including a marathon in every state. I’ve also completed race distances of over 160 kilometres at a time and multi-day races, such as doing five marathons in five days in five different states. I have no idea where this will wind up going from here, but since I’m closing in on my 100th race of marathon distance or longer, that is my next goal.  

Now, on Veterans Day, I realize that I never used to give being a veteran much thought. Currently, however, I’m a member of my American Legion post and enjoy spending time there with other veterans. I’ve joined Team RWB, a resource for veterans that, fortunately for me, is active in the running community. When I see someone wearing a WWII hat or similar, I’ll buy them lunch. I recently had the pleasure of spending an hour or so with an amazing gentleman named Bill. He’s 94 and served as a pilot in WWII. I could have listened to him all day as he told me stories about his time in the military. After lunch, I told him I’d get the check. He, of course, said he would not let a lady buy him lunch, but when I told him I wanted to pay for it, one veteran to another, he graciously accepted.  

I used to not tell people that I was in the military; it seemed like something that was so long ago that it was in another lifetime. But now, I say it with pride. When someone tells me, “Thank you for your service,” I graciously accept it and feel honoured that I had the chance to do my small part for our country.

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