‘Huskies for Heroes’ goes the distance for veterans

From left to right: David Vacchi, Michael Trudeau, Nic Pszenny, and Andrew McCarty hold up a check for the Run to Home Base Program at Fenway Park. Trudeau, president of Northeastern’s Student Veterans Organization, met Vacchi, who had been conducting research for his doctorate on the university’s campus, through their work on the Massachusetts Student Veterans Advisory Board.

On Saturday, May 4, Northeastern’s Huskies for Heroes participated in a nine-kilometer fundraising run through Boston and across home plate at Fenway. The team raised over $27,000 in sup­port of the Red Sox Foun­da­tion and Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pital Home Base Program. College of Professional Studies student-veteran Nic Pszenny led the team and discussed the goal of the run in an interview with NECN

The Home Base Program serves vet­erans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who suffer from combat stress and trau­matic brain injury. According to the program’s lit­er­a­ture, invis­ible wounds of war affect 30 per­cent of sol­diers who have served in either country.

The race—dubbed the 2013 Run-​​​​Walk to Home Base—starts on Yawkey Way and fin­ishes in Fenway Park at home plate.

Pszenny founded the Huskies for Heroes team, which raised more than qua­dru­ple the amount of last year’s total. The team raised $8,000 by auc­tioning off com­mem­o­ra­tive cam­ou­flage jer­seys and socks worn my mem­bers of the men’s hockey team on Vet­erans Day weekend.

“I am very happy that people stepped up to par­tic­i­pate,” said Pszenny, a grad­u­ating senior studying lead­er­ship. The Home Base pro­gram, he added, is “leading the charge” in treating wounded vet­erans with post-​​traumatic stress and trau­matic brain injury.

Andrew McCarty, an Air Force vet­eran and Northeastern’s vet­eran ser­vices spe­cialist, agreed with Pszenny’s assess­ment of the program’s value. “I cer­tainly have turned to the Home Base Pro­gram for help with par­tic­ular issues,” he said. “It is good to know that there is an orga­ni­za­tion out there that is ded­i­cated to helping this spe­cific population.”

The Boston Marathon bomb­ings have enhanced the sig­nif­i­cance of this year’s run, according to both Pszenny and McCarty, who par­tic­i­pated in the five-​​and-​​a-​​half-​​mile event. In honor of the vic­tims of the twin bomb­ings, every member of the Huskies for Heroes team wore a ribbon inscribed with the date of the attack.

“This was the first big run­ning event in the city fol­lowing the bomb­ings,” Pszenny said. He noted that two North­eastern student-​​veterans who par­tic­i­pated in Saturday’s run also ran the marathon, saying, “It was emo­tional for a lot of people.”

Added McCarty: “This is another way for the Boston com­mu­nity to come together. It was be healing and invigorating.”

The North­eastern stu­dent veteran’s com­mu­nity is already very close—and well respected. At the begin­ning of the year, the Stu­dent Vet­erans of America rec­og­nized Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion as its top chapter in the United States.

North­eastern, for its part, has devel­oped a strong com­mit­ment to edu­cating stu­dent vet­erans through the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, which cur­rently pro­vides free tuition to more than 130 vet­erans who have served in the post-​​​​9/​​11 era. In 2009, the uni­ver­sity pledged $2 mil­lion to help vet­erans earn a col­lege edu­ca­tion through the pro­gram, which offers stu­dents access to bachelor’s, master’s, doc­toral, and law degrees.

McCarty said stu­dent vet­erans bring a unique world­view to the North­eastern com­mu­nity, owing to their vast inter­na­tional and cul­tural expe­ri­ences. “Stu­dent vet­erans tend to be leaders within the orga­ni­za­tions they join,” he explained.