Mariel (Mel) Bloom vividly recalls the feeling of helplessness she experienced during 9/11 and, later after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. “I hated that feeling,” she said. “I wanted to do something to contribute.”
It’s what compelled her to join the military in 2015. And it’s what has inspired the Air Force veteran to jump at the chance to run her first Falmouth Road Race while supporting Heroes In Transition (HIT) in the process.
“Heroes In Transition helped me out in 2017 when I got out of the military,” she said. “Admittedly when I got out, I didn’t have a sense of belonging. A big thing for me was I immediately met other people through HIT who were like me – stateside veterans. They made me feel like I deserved to be here and deserved to be helped.
“HIT helped me get connected to people in Falmouth to help me file my disability claims,” she continued. “And they helped me with gift cards because I was struggling to pay for groceries. …Getting out of the military was the hardest time for me as opposed to getting in. They made the transition so much easier for me.”
When Bloom, who now lives in Lincoln, Rhode Island, departs from Woods Hole this Sunday morning and makes her way to Falmouth Heights, she’ll be running for an organization that has had a huge impact on her life.
She’s also running to raise awareness to disabled veterans like herself who show no visible signs of having a disability. “I’m trying to change the conversation of what does it mean to serve for so many of us who feel invalidated,” she explained. “I’m also trying to change the idea of what a veteran looks like, especially a disabled veteran. Yes, I’m a disabled veteran and yes, if I can do this race, I’ll be happy.”
Bloom, whose family has long had a summer home in East Falmouth, has fond memories of watching runners cross the finish line when she was a kid. This weekend, she’ll be the one accomplishing that feat.
It’ll represent a significant achievement for Bloom, especially since the race is in a place that means so much to her. “Falmouth has always been a rock for me. It’s always been that anchor,” she said. “No matter what is going on my life, I know I can always go home there.”
While she’s experiencing a mix of excitement and nerves heading into her first-ever race, the 29-year-old is proud of how far she’s come already since starting her training. “This has been a really big challenge for me, especially being a disabled veteran and having those limits. I’m not 18 years old anymore,” she admitted.
And despite those challenges, she knows what will carry her over the course of the 7-mile race is why she is running and who she is running for. “My military service is something I don’t take for granted,” she said. “This has put me out of my comfort zone, but I’ve found it’s the best way for me to talk about being a veteran, being a disabled veteran, and having benefitted from the programs I’m now raising funds for.”