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Catching Up: Iraq war veteran marks third marathon finish

It was almost a year ago that Lance Cpl. Neil Schalk, then 19, a Marine from Richland Center serving in Iraq, was wounded by a homemade bomb during a convoy mission from Fallujah to Ramadi.


MON., NOV 13, 2006

He lost two fingers on his right hand and is preparing for his 13th surgery to reconstruct his left hand.

But while he is not serving with his fellow Marines, Schalk still is supporting them.

On Oct. 29 Schalk ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., finishing 3,514th out of 20,934 runners in 3 hours, 55 minutes.

"It was my third full marathon," Schalk said. "My goal was to break four hours."

Schalk was sponsored by Marineparents.com and is in the process of raising $22,000 for the organization. The Web site, run by parents of deployed Marines, ships care packages each month to Marines stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan who are not receiving mail or care packages.

So far Schalk, along with two other runners, friends and family, has raised $7,192 and will continue until they reach their goal.

And Schalk has another goal - to participate in the Ironman triathlon in Madison, and he's trying to get Marineparents.com to sponsor him again.

"I do triathlons all the time," he said.

As for his military career, Schalk said he'll know more after his next hand surgery in December. If he's not combat deployable, Schalk said he's interested in going to school this spring to become a biology teacher. "I just have always been good at (biology)," he said. Plus, Schalk said he likes children and would enjoy teaching high school.

For information, visit http://www.marineparents.com. Donations can be mailed to Marineparents.com Inc., Attention: Marathon Team 2006, P.O. Box 1115, Columbia, MO 65205.

- Gena Kittner