- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

NAHANT, Mass. (AP) - During his 34 years in the U.S. Navy, Clarke Orzalli had the opportunity to do and see a lot but the one thing that left a lasting impression on him was his work with disabled veterans.

“I got to participate in the veterans wheelchair games as a presenter, so I got very interested in the Wounded Warrior Project,” Orzalli said.

He is taking that interest to the street by participating in the 2014 Run to Home Base, a 9K run to raise money for services for local veterans that ends with runners crossing home plate in Fenway Park on Saturday, July 19.

He said what really kicked off his desire to take part in the Run to Home Base was a visit to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown with the Massachusetts High Tech Council. The event was hosted by retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, who Orzalli knew and who is also the CEO of the Home Base Program.

The program’s purpose is to support veterans with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury through research as well as providing care to veterans with PTSD/TBI and their families free of charge, Orzalli explained.

“I saw some of the ongoing research at Spaulding and was impressed,” he said. “Not just the brain research but prosthetics and artificial limbs, it’s really impressive.”

He was also impressed by the fact that the event is a partnership between the Boston Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital and that all the money raised goes directly to research.

“The overhead is already covered,” he said.

It made him want to contribute, which led to the run.

Orzalli said he’s wanted to do the run for a couple of years but hasn’t had time. He also admitted, “I was a little concerned with my own physical fitness because I’m not young.”

He decided, if he was going to do it, and he is, he’d better do it right.

A runner in the past, Orzalli said he completed the Marine Corps Marathon five years ago but that only made him “a one and done marathoner.” He has not kept up that pace since, so he mapped out a five-and-a-half-mile loop around Nahant and slowly began to build up his stamina. He said he’s since been able to complete the loop, “so I know I can finish.”

With the event scheduled for Saturday, Orzalli has a little under two weeks to continue to build his stamina and finish his own fundraising.

“When I signed up, I committed to a minimum fundraising goal of $750,” he said.

He is lucky that he has more than reached his goal, but those who would like to support his efforts can still donate at www.runtohomebase.org/2014Runtohomebase/Dadmiral.

Orzalli joked that his daughter was on “Jeopardy!” last year and when Alex Trebek asked what she called her father, she said she and her friends all call him “the Dadmiral.”

“Thus the name of my fundraising site,” he said.

Recently named post commander for the American Legion Post 215 in Nahant, Orzalli said he will wear a USS Nahant T-shirt for the run. And while he is thrilled to raise as much money as possible for the cause, Orzalli is also quick to note that his real goal is to raise awareness about the Wounded Warrior Project and the need for help that exists.

“My very real goal is to work to make sure people are aware and to take every opportunity to tell them . I would never try and pressure anyone,” he said. “I figured I could do my part.”

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