Cadet Logs Miles, Raises Funds for Operation Enduring Warrior
Lexington, Va., May 15, 2021—Will Duffy ’22 was weak in the knees in the final days of the academic year. Not because of exams or the multiple parades and trainings that happen, but because of the challenge he signed up for to help others.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, home of Nike, Duffy grew up around an elite running culture. He’s been running much of his life, but he’s never run any races quite like this: starting on the morning of May 12, as a fundraiser in support of Operation Enduring Warrior, he began his attempt to run around the Parade Ground for 24 hours straight.
“This is an incredible organization that helps with the care and rehabilitation of our wounded military and law enforcement members, and honors their legacy,” said Duffy in the days leading up to his run. “What I will be doing on this run is nothing compared to what veterans have endured.”
He was inspired to take on the challenge by the example of his dyke Emory Lieber ’19. Lieber undertook this event his second-class year for the same foundation. Duffy is commissioning in the Marine Corps after graduating, and this also inspired his desire to support Operation Enduring Warrior.
“I don't come from a military family, but coming out of high school I knew I wanted to go into the military. The way I thought about it was, if this is a community I'm going to be a part of, I want to make sure this community is being taken care of.”
Cadet Duffy running with Brian Ugalde of Operation Enduring Warrior, and with fellow VMI cadets. – VMI Photos by Eric Moore
His training consisted of regular six, eight, and ten mile runs, with longer runs and breaks sprinkled in. His goals were set in a friendly, but competitive mind frame with Lieber. If Lieber did 123 laps, and 70 miles, Duffy just wanted to do at least one more.
And he did. On the morning of May 13, right at 9 a.m., Duffy stopped right where he started in front of barracks. His watch clocked 75.2 miles, and those keeping track noted 124 laps around the Parade Ground complete. But the numbers that probably meant the most to Duffy were the more than $6,500 raised for Operation Enduring Warrior by just shy of 100 donors.
“I’m not doing this for myself by any means. I'm doing this for the organization and the people they've been able to impact with their efforts in the veteran and law enforcement community.”
He didn’t do it for himself, and he didn’t do it by himself. Lieber’s mom was one of the most dedicated supporters. She was on post providing food, drinks, extra socks, and any other support he needed during those 24 hours. Fellow cadets were by his side, too, often joining in for a lap or two. Sometimes there’d be more than ten by his side, even through the night.
Duffy’s motivation stayed strong. “If I feel I can't go one more mile, I can go one more mile, because there have been people I'm supporting right now that have been through way worse than me.”
Cadet Duffy, Brother Rats, and Brian Ugalde of Operation Enduring Warrior – VMI Photo by Eric Moore
Maj. Michelle Ellwood and Eric Moore
Communications & Marketing
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE