Officer Matt Haviland was on patrol several weeks ago when he stopped to grab a cup of coffee from a local truck stop in Indiana. He noticed a man in a wheelchair crossing the parking lot with a desert camouflage backpack who appeared to be former military. The two struck up a conversation and Haviland—an army veteran—learned the man served 16 years, which included multiple combat deployments before a catastrophic training injury left him paralyzed.
He also learned the man is now part of an adaptive U.S. Olympic water sports team.
These are the stories that motivate Haviland and serve as a catalyst for why he joined up with Team REVolution, the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) endurance fundraising program. Through them, he’ll be running this year’s 42nd Marine Corps Marathon on October 22 in Arlington, Va.
“I stood there and talked to him for about 45 minutes—he and I were military veterans so we had a common bond and I had the chance to tell him what I am doing and ask him about PVA,” said Haviland, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. “Right away he said that they are top tier—they do a lot of really good services for veterans which helped validate what I was doing. And it made me feel really good about it because he had nothing but positive things to say.”
This is the first year Team REVolution is participating in the MCM and the 40 spots filled quickly, according to a spokesperson for the organization. The minimum amount a team member needs to raise is $600 dollars. Haviland has currently raised $2,300 dollars through word-of-mouth in his community, where he is a very active member. His daughter’s softball teams, which he helps coach, came together and made a big donation as well.
Haviland, 43, is a busy guy—he is a father of five, a small business owner and a former multi-sport athlete. Running for a cause brings together all the different aspects of his life for one important common goal.
“I had talked to one of the representatives at PVA and they asked me why I chose them and if I had a special connection to a paralyzed veteran and I didn’t,” explained Haviland. “I was fortunate enough that none of my buddies that I know of first hand experienced anything like that. In the aftermath, I see all these wounded veterans, these injured veterans and I just wanted to support them. I’m actually kind of empowered by them. It’s motivating to get to talk to them.”
Running has always been in Haviland’s family. His father ran several marathons in the 70’s and 80’s and also coached cross-country and track and field, among other sports. And his mother just qualified for the Senior Olympics in the 5K at the age of 63.
“I ran my first Marine Corps Marathon in 2011 and I have not run a marathon since then,” admitted Haviland. “I actually ran that marathon with my college roommate who is a former marine and he turned me on to it. And after going there and experiencing that event I couldn’t see myself running in anything else.”
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Haviland’s path to military service was another family tradition.
“I joined the military just prior to 9/11,” said Haviland. “I always felt there was something missing, and at the time I had my college degree and I wanted to go back and lead soldiers. So in early 2000, I decided to sign up for the reserves—my dad was a Vietnam veteran, my grandfather was a World War II veteran so that was always part of my life and I felt like I could do more. So I wanted to partake in that and then 9/11 happened and it put us all to work.”
Working with PVA has allowed Haviland to combine his love for running with his desire to give back to those who have sacrificed themselves for our country.
“It has been a phenomenal experience up to this point,” said Haviland. “These men and women who have served, whether they were injured in combat, they were injured while in the service or an illness that had occurred afterward, they are deserving of so much more—we probably cant give enough. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and what a great opportunity to not only challenge yourself and do a spectacular event but also to benefit a worthy cause.”