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One Runner Shares Her Life As A Civilian Working For The Military

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Chris Anne after completing the 8K Mud Run at Little Creek Naval Base last August.

Chris Anne “is a runner who runs for stress after deployments to Iraq, Djibouti and Afghanistan.” Currently working as a civilian in the Navy, Chris Anne previously supported the State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan. While she does not view herself as a veteran, she shares her experience of working alongside that we salute every year for Veteran’s Day (and we salute her too!):

Women’s Running: What does it mean to as a civilian overseas versus being in any branch of the military?

Chris Anne: Hm, tough question. As a civilian, I had such an enormous amount of pride for what we were doing. Even though I only did admin/protocol work, I felt like part of the team, one part of the wheel, doing what our country needed or what was directed by the President. I worked almost as long as the military. As long as there was a need for me to be in the office—and there usually was—then I was there, usually from 0700 to 2000, six days a week. In Afghanistan, Sunday was the down day, and I usually only worked five to six hours that day. One of the highlights was Sunday, as I usually was the Department of State representative for the evening to hand out Purple Hearts with the General to those at the hospital in the evening.  The most memorable to me was one woman who was 19 years old, and when the General asked her if she had called her family, she responded that she didn’t keep in contact with them. My heart broke; she was 19, in Afghanistan, and injured in service to her country and she couldn’t call home. I was early 40’s at the time, both my parents had passed away and I missed them so much, and here was a young woman who couldn’t reach out for whatever reason. As a civilian, I always was hugging these young kids during my time at the hospital; I told them that their moms couldn’t be there to give hugs, so I was giving them hugs for them. It was days like that that were so inspiring and made me want to work harder and better to do all that I could do to help them—and to help keep our soldiers safes.

WR: What does it mean to you to serve our country overseas, even if you are not ‘technically’ considered a ‘vet’?

CA: I was so proud of my service to our country, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan or now back here in Maryland. I’m proud to say I volunteered to go, three times. And to be honest, I’d go again if asked. Many people think it’s only the military that deploys, but I served with so many wonderful civilians that sacrificed just as much. I’m proud that I stood up and served and think that I am a better person because of it. And I have met so many wonderful people while deployed. Yes it was hard work and long hours, but you become a part of something bigger, something better.

Related: How One Vet Reached Her Goal Before She Was 30

WR: When and why did you first get into running, and have those reasons for running shifted since then?

CA: I don’t even remember the first race I did, though I do remember that it was when I was still at home, becaise I remember my mom driving me to it. I’ve never won a race, never even placed. But the sense of accomplishment after each one is what keeps driving me—well that and the hope that it will get rid of some of the tension/stress in my body and help with my insomnia, which started in Iraq. I still ran and spent time in the gym while I was in Iraq and Djibouti. But by the time I arrived in Afghanistan, I was severely out of shape. Coming home from Djibouti, then my mom dying five days after I arrived home, then my dad getting sick four months later, then me moving home to Pittsburgh to be his primary caregiver, then him dying exactly nine months to the day after my mom, stressed me out. It wasn’t until I returned from Afghanistan in 2012 that I even wanted to return to running, so I did.

WR: It sounds like you’ve been through some very hard, insane hardships since being back. What are some of the ways running has helped you process and move through those tough times?

CA: Well after my mom and dad passed away, I wasn’t running, and I don’t even remember that time; it was such a blur. Since my return from Afghanistan, walking and running have helped me immensely. I can remember some cold nights after work, getting out there and just walking around and around, up and down streets, just to get the stress off my back. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been out there talking to myself, crying to myself and on a few occasions screaming to myself. Those that have encountered me have probably thought I was a loon. Or I would just have conversations in my head with someone working out a problem. It’s helped me to keep my thoughts to myself on those days when I was too angry and would have said many a thing that might have gotten me in trouble.

Related: Why One Vet Doesn’t Celebrate Veteran’s Day For Herself

WR: What are you future goals for the sport while you are working for the Navy?

CA: I would like to get back to my “normal” running time, which is a 10:00 pace, and I would like to be able to do my races, whether 5K, 10K or 10-miler runs, without stopping to walk. I completed a marathon in 1997 in San Francisco, and I don’t plan on any more. I would like to be able to spend more time out on the water. I live in Annapolis, Md., and have a kayak and a stand-up paddleboard and would like to be able to cross-train with this if possible. I’d like to do more triathlons if possible; and one day, I hope to move to Virginia Beach and run on the beach after work each day!