LT Duane T. Zitta, Command Duty Officer for the 14th Coast Guard District in Hawaii, raised $12,000 competing in ultra-endurance races throughout 2018 and early 2019 for the Coast Guard Foundation’s Fallen Heroes Fund.
Zitta, who has been in the Coast Guard for over 15 years, says the initial idea of raising funds was small, but quickly became something bigger than he ever imagined. After setting a goal of raising $5,000, and quickly reaching it, the cause grew and grew.
“When I reflect on the last year of fundraising, training, and racing I can’t help but think of the families who have endured the ultimate sacrifice,” said Zitta. “Every difficult challenge I faced this year was welcomed as I knew that each one of them would raise our goal higher and higher.”
Over the course of the year Zitta had the opportunity to meet with families of the fallen who had heard about his journey, which included the wife and daughter of CAPT Thomas G. Nelson. CAPT Nelson was one of four crew members from Coast Guard helicopter CG-6505 who died when their HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter tragically went down in the ocean five miles off Honolulu airport during a training flight on September 4, 2008.
His daughter, Adriana Nelson, is an alumna of the Fallen Heroes Scholarship which covered 100 percent of her college expenses, traveled to support Zitta’s final fundraising event and together present Linda Naugle, the Foundation’s Regional Director of Philanthropy, with the $12,000 check.
“There is nothing more motivating than knowing that families of my fallen shipmates were cheering me on and supporting me just as my own family was,” said Zitta. “Forming relationships with these families and meeting the children that have grown with the fallen heroes fund has truly been a life-changing experience.”
Zitta began taking part in the Run to Remember movement in 2009 and after such a successful 2018, he plans to mark the 10 year anniversary by attempting to summit Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world, which is a 42 mile run from the sea to the stars reaching close to 14,000 feet at its peak.
Every time I strapped on my shoes on, I was running for those who no longer can. The reason I joined the Coast Guard 15 years ago was to help people. As Coast Guard men and women we have a duty to honor the fallen, remember them, and care for those they left behind.