Ask anyone who participates in the Ruck4HIT and they will admit running with a weighted rucksack isn’t easy. But as Lena Bevilacqua of Bourne, says, “the weight on your back is nothing compared to what the people who serve and have served feel, whether it’s a visible physical issue or a mental issue that is unseen.”
Lena, who will be running in her fourth Ruck4HIT this month with Team Hazard, knows firsthand the difficulties faced not only by our country’s service members and veterans, but their families. Her brother-in-law Bruce has served in the Coast Guard for the past 22 years.
“He’s shipped out and come back and shipped out and come back. He’s been around the world,” said Lena. “I’ve watched my sister – she is what I focus on when I run – he would ship out and come home for a couple of weeks. They’ve had to move multiple times and my sister and nephew have never been able to settle in one spot. They’ve lived in New Hampshire, Virginia, and Seattle.
“My nephew and sister, they took a big hit supporting his father and her husband in the service. They had to sacrifice him not being there,” she continued. “And he had to sacrifice essentially missing out on all those important milestones in his son’s life and a lot of family things got put on the back burner as he went through the military.”
Struggling to Adapt
Even when the family settled in Boston two years ago, Lena said, her brother-in-law struggled to adapt from a career in which he was shipping out constantly to one in which he was assigned to a land station. “It was hard for him, but also for my sister and nephew having to adjust to him being home all the time,” Lena said.
Not only will Lena be running for them she will be running “for all the families that just need a little extra help to keep them together and keep them on the path of becoming whole again.”
Joining Lena on Team Hazard is her sister Gina – this will be her third Ruck4HIT – who was the recipient of gift cards from Heroes In Transition during the partial federal government shutdown in 2019 in which members of the Coast Guard were furloughed or required to work without pay for 35 days.
While Lena’s husband, who works for the Department of Defense, wasn’t being paid, she said, “our income is split so we had some savings. My sister didn’t have a rainy-day fund so Heroes In Transition stepped up to help. It was truly a blessing to this day and means the world to me what they did for my sister.”
Lena, who is the Assistant to Investigative Services and Grant Coordinator at the Barnstable Police Department, was introduced to the Ruck4HIT by her colleague, Police Sergeant John Alexander, after he ran the first race, from Ground Zero in New York City to Cape Cod, in 2016.
When it came to the Cape the next year, she jumped at the chance to participate, having run in Tough Mudders and Spartan Races in the past. The next year, Lena was carrying added weight – she was pregnant with her daughter Genevieve. “I had an ultrasound printed up and I attached it to my T-shirt so we finished together,” Lena said. “I announced my pregnancy to everyone when I crossed the finish line.”
Every year she has run the ruck, the most powerful moment for Lena has been the final leg when she crosses the finish line with her teammates by her side. “You just have this surge in pride and joy in the fact that you know you’re doing something so powerful for someone else that you can’t see and you don’t know,” Lena said. “For me, I know in my heart all the hard work we’re doing is actually going to go somewhere important and to people who really need it. And of course, our military is so deserving because they sacrifice so much. I’ve seen it firsthand with my brother-in-law.”
Want to support this year’s Ruck4HIT? We’re still looking for volunteers! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also make a donation at www.ruck4hit.org. Funds raised will support our mission to give back to service members, veterans, and military families in our region.