PARKERSBURG - Of the more than 1,700 persons who competed in Saturday's News and Sentinel Half Marathon and Two-Mile Race, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who was as happy to be at the Juliana Street starting line as Parkersburg native Chet Griffey.
A member of the 1092nd Engineer Battalion of the West Virginia Army National Guard, Griffey is on a two-week leave from his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, he competed in the News and Sentinel Half Marathon. Talk about the true meaning of Parkersburg Homecoming weekend.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg native Chet Griffey crosses the finish line at Saturday’s News and Sentinel Half Marathon.?
"I wanted to take advantage of the race while I was here," said Griffey, who has been running in Afghanistan and even participated in a half marathon there.
Griffey said another member of the 1092nd, Trampus Wolfe, also participated in Saturday's race.
"It's nice to be back," Griffey said as he prepared for his 13.1-mile journey through the streets of Parkersburg. "It refreshes you."
Griffey is enjoying every minute of the time he gets to spend with his family.
His son, Spencer, was a two-time all-state soccer goalie who led Parkersburg High School to back-to-back state titles. He now is a member of the soccer program at Ohio Valley University, which opens the season the day after Griffey must return to Afghanistan. Daughter Alexa is a member of the Red Wings at PHS and performed in Saturday's Homecoming parade.
Griffey is one of those supportive parents who always was there to watch his children perform.
On Saturday, it was Dad Griffey who performed.
"We had run a half marathon in Afghanistan on Memorial Day," he said.
Griffey had no delusions about winning the race.
"I just want to finish," he said, a mission he accomplished.
Griffey, who also did a tour of duty in Iraq, has been in Afghanistan for about a year. He says it's impossible not to notice the stark contrast between Afghanistan and the United States.
"Afghanistan is flat and brown," he said. "As soon as I got back I noticed all the colors here and the vegetables that were growing."
Because Afghanistan is at elevation, Griffey had little problem preparing for the half marathon.
Although he is unable to discuss his assignment in Afghanistan, he said he is able to communicate with his family through e-mail and often via cell phone.
"The most difficult thing is being away from my family," he said.
Randy Kinsolving, who serves as the announcer for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, introduced Griffey at the starting line. When the crowd heard his story, it broke into a round of applause.