IRONMAN athletes racing to honor fallen military heroes - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

IRONMAN athletes racing to honor fallen military heroes

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More than 500 IRONMAN athletes will be wearing an additional piece to their race day uniform. Some athletes are wearing a race bib dedicated to a fallen U.S. military member. 

It's a tribute that started in Chattanooga and has now spread nationwide.

When Amy Cotta finished the 2014 IRONMAN wearing combat boots and a gear pack, she did so to honor 21 military heroes who died in combat.

"And literally at this race in Chattanooga in 2014 Medals of Honor was born and I didn't even realize it," Cotta said.

Now, two years later, more than 500 athletes will be wearing her hand-written race bibs with a fallen service member's rank, name, date of death and branch of service.

The IRONMAN athletes will swim, bike, run to remember.
"Just by placing this small bib on your person and saying, "I'm racing for this young man or this young woman," she said, "It means the absolute world to their families."

Cotta created the non-profit "Medals of Honor," and for some athletes, like Greg Presley, he now only competes in honor of others.

"It just changes you from the inside out," Presley said.

When the 140 miles of grueling endurance becomes too much to handle,  Presley thinks of the fallen soldier he's carrying with him.

"I normally write their names on my arms or on my bike so I can look down and see that it's not about me," he said, "If I'm in pain, I can say I gotta suck it up and do it for them."

If you see an IRONMAN competitor on Sunday wearing a Medals of Honor race bib, Cotta wants you to understand it means so much more for that fallen soldier's family and for the athlete crossing the finish line.

"The thought that he gave his life for me, for my freedom, made me not give up, and has changed my life forever," Cotta said.

Cotta said many of the athletes mail their finisher's medal to the families of the fallen military member they raced for. 

There are more than 1,500 fallen military members in the Medals of Honor database. 

Money raised by the Medals of Honor non-profit goes toward care packages for families of the fallen, and to sponsor veterans and surviving family members so they can compete in competitions across the country.

To learn more about their mission, or how to participate, visit their website 

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