On Sunday morning, Kathy Pittman of Attleboro visited Fenway Park for the first time - but she was not there to see a baseball game.
Pittman, 51, was there for her two sons - a 23-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran and a 31-year-old soldier stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C.
She was one of thousands of people who came early Sunday to the third annual Run-Walk to Home Base, a 5.6-mile run to benefit the Home Base Program, which provides clinical care and support services to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from combat-related issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The program also assists families of the veterans.
Pittman and her family became involved with the Home Base Program while her younger son, Tom, was doing a double tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. She and her husband, Michael, could tell Tom was troubled from conversations they had with him before he came home. “We had concerns,’’ she said. “He was having some issues.’’
After he came back, Tom had trouble with sleeping, nightmares, and reconnecting with his family and friends. At the advice of his parents, Tom sought help from the Home Base Program.
“Most people look at someone with [post-traumatic stress disorder] and think, ‘Oh, he’s waiting to explode,’ ’’ Tom said. “Now that my family understands post-traumatic stress disorder, that makes it easier. They know what to do when I have nightmares, they understand.’’
The Home Base Program was launched by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital in 2009.
‘It’s good to know you’re all here to make a difference.’Senator Scott Brown
The run begins on Yawkey Way, stretches over to Memorial Drive, and ends when runners return to cross home plate in the Fenway Park. Participants can also do a 3-mile walk.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Senator Scott Brown spoke at the opening ceremony.
Brown, who also ran in the race, lauded the service members and supporters in the audience.
“It’s good to know you’re all here to make a difference,’’ he said.
By the end of the morning, approximately 2,000 participants, who were each required to raise at least $1,000, had crossed home plate, bringing in more than $2 million, organizers said.
The winner for the third year - Pete Gleason, 34, of Millbury - ran the race for a friend in the Air Force who recently lost two legs and an arm while in Afghanistan.
“This year was kind of extra special,’’ he said. “I’ve definitely had him on my mind all day.’’
While some - like Gleason - ran the race for loved ones, others ran it simply because they thought it was the right thing to do.
“We’ve raised [our children] to respect those who serve,’’ said Kelli Marchant, 42, who was walking the route with her husband and two young daughters. “We believe in supporting the troops regardless of political views. They’re over there risking their lives.’’
Fred Green of Foxboro, 66, who fought in Vietnam, was the event’s top veteran fund-raiser for the second year in a row.
His son-in-law, Peter Charbonneau, 40, an Army major stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., flew in so the two could run the race together.
Because Charbonneau was serving in Iraq this time last year, Green ran the race in his honor, wearing a shirt that said, “Run to Home Base for Peter.’’ This year, his shirt said, “Run to Home Base with Peter.’’
Green, who lost a childhood friend in the Vietnam War, said returning vets did not then have access to the same kind of services available today. Many committed suicide after they returned home.
“We weren’t treated all that well when we came back,’’ he said. “We can’t let that happen again.’’