The sacrifice is great for those in the U.S. armed forces special operations units and their families.
Mt. Lebanon resident Brian Loughridge, 46, who served as a Navy Seal for eight years before retiring in 2010, tells story after story of what his team members and other special operators gave up for their country.
“You understand that the mission is bigger than you. That’s a special ops view. It’s such a critical job and mission,” he said. “It’s just a different level of commitment…. I laugh. I’m at work and people call off and it’s because so and so is sick or something is going on. You don’t get that excuse there.
“I missed my sister’s wedding, my grandmother’s funeral. You don’t go home for that stuff,” said Loughridge, who is also a volunteer with the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department.
He recalls a teammate whose wife gave birth to triplets. Three weeks later the Navy Seal was deployed and his wife was left alone with three newborn babies.
Then, there was a neighbor whose life was going great. He had a new wife and a baby and just purchased a motorcycle. When he left for deployment, “life was good,” Loughridge said. “But he never came home.”
Looking at a photo on his basement wall of his graduating class from the Navy Seals, many of his classmates are gone.
“That sacrifice for these families is huge and then, one day, you’re not coming home,” Loughridge said. “Those families are left on an island.”
That’s why the Joggin’ for Frogmen race, slated for Saturday, May 20, at Mt. Lebanon High School is so important. It raises money to help the families of special operators who lose their lives. The race starts at 8 a.m. with a Kids’ Tadpole Trot at 9:30 a.m. and an after party at Spoonwood Brewing Company at 11 a.m.
The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department has its own team. Mt. Lebanon residents are encouraged to join the team.
Joggin’ for Frogmen, which takes place each year on Armed Forces Day, made its Pittsburgh-area debut nearly a decade ago with a race on the Panhandle Trail. It later moved to Schenley Park and last year, Mt. Lebanon.
The race is inspired by the U.S. Navy Seals, who, because of their skills both in the water and on land, are often referred to as “frogmen.”
Over the years, the race has supported various organizations from the Navy Seal Foundation to the 31 Heroes Project. It now supports the Travis Manion Foundation.
“Travis Manion captures the whole essence of the run, which is supporting special operators’ families and the families of the fallen,” Loughridge said. “They want to make more heroes. They try to inspire.”
The Travis Manion Foundation has a mantra, “If not me, then who.”
“I love that saying,” Loughridge said. “I try to live my life like that.”
One of the reasons many run the race is to show support of special operators and their families.
“I’ve seen it so close. I know what the families go through,” said Loughridge, of the importance of showing support. “I’ve seen the recipients. I’ve seen how it helped. I’ve seen how it eased the pain.”
The dad of two also runs the race for his daughters, to show them that it’s important to be appreciative for those giving the ultimate sacrifice.
“I do this for them to experience this and to learn appreciation and gratitude and to understand the sacrifices people are making,” he said. “You can choose to be one of those people who are, ‘If not me, then who?’” But if not, that’s fine. But you should appreciate them, appreciate what they’ve done and what they do.”
For Loughridge, it was a lifelong dream to serve at the highest level.
“It is the absolute best experience of my life,” he said.
While he got out of the Navy to start a family, many stay in. They’re needed, because it takes years to develop leaders. But their families are paying the sacrifice, Loughridge said.
About 200 people attend the Joggin’ for Frogmen race in Pittsburgh each year.
While the race has died off in other areas, it still is going strong here. This year the race is being held in three cities: Pittsburgh, Virginia Beach and San Diego.
“It’s a testament to the people here,” Loughridge said.
Mt. Lebanon residents are invited to join and show their support for those in special forces.
More details on the race can be found at www.jogginforfrogmen.com.