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Pararescueman raises money for AIDS awareness

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- An Airman battled body, mind and social stigmas to raise awareness about AIDS and HIV testing for African Americans by running from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 14 days in December, which was approximately 26 miles a day for two weeks.

Tech. Sgt. Lejon Boudreaux, a California Air National Guard pararescueman from the 131st Rescue Squadron, was approached eight months ago by a friend with the idea to participate in an extended run for charity.

Mike Sacco, an avid runner encouraged Sergeant Boudreaux to run for AIDS awareness. After speaking with Phill Wilson, the chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute, Mr. Sacco decided to work with the group to create "Run in a Million," an event that would publicize the AIDS epidemic as everyone's problem. The goal was to encourage 1 million African Americans to be tested by June 27, 2009, which is National HIV Testing Day.

"This was a great opportunity to provide an example of how we're all in this life together," Sergeant Boudreaux said, who has two friends in the Bay Area living with HIV. "We all have trials and tribulations, and our experiences shouldn't be segregated by race."

A pararescueman for 10 years, Sergeant Boudreaux is no stranger to physical and mental stress. In addition to their intense training program, multiple deployments and search and rescue missions, the PJs have a physical evaluation every 18 months. The evaluation consists of a three-mile run, 1,500-meter swim, push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.

"To be able to do that in succession is like a mini triathlon," Sergeant Boudreaux said.

He said his profession as a PJ and participating in five marathons in 2007 helped prepare for the LA run. But there were still reservations from his family and friends.

"Everyone had the general consensus that I was crazy," Sergeant Boudreaux said. "There's no book telling you the proper way to train, and there were so many unknowns."

He said his family was concerned with the possibility of hospitalization or long-term disability.

A significant concern following a sustained injury he experienced to his right quadriceps, during the 12th day of the run. Sergeant Boudreaux was unable to continue past 16 miles, 10 miles short of their daily average throughout the course of the two weeks.

"I didn't think I could walk, let alone run the next day," he said.

An LA physical therapist volunteered to work on Sergeant Boudreaux's injury that evening with massage therapy and an ice bath, and he was able to run the next morning.

"The most heinous moments during that run was the everyday ice bath," Sergeant Boudreaux said.

Even though they were the only runners, they weren't necessarily alone. Sponsored by the Niketown store in Beverly Hills and supported by volunteer "crew chiefs," medics and fans, the duo successfully completed the arduous task.

"I was so excited my body held out," Sergeant Boudreaux said. "I went through the full emotional gambit of, 'What the hell am I doing?' to 'I can make it.' I thoroughly enjoyed each day."

Sergeant Boudreaux's father, Ron Boudreaux, and 19-year-old brother, Robert Dieguez, a PJ in his first year of training at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., were there to congratulate him on the final day of the marathon.

This experience inspired Sergeant Boudreaux to continue in his philanthropic efforts by kicking off 2008 with a charity run in conjunction with the Big Sur Marathon.

The charity run, The Angel Foundation helps fund the college tuition of a fellow PJ's son who has cancer, he said. Future efforts will include a charity mixer and carwash to raise money before the run.

"People forget about the power of one," Sergeant Boudreaux said. "One person can make a difference."