Iraq war widow raises money running in husband’s memory

Danielle Sweet runs in memory of her husband and "Angels of America\'s Fallen."(Photo provided by Danielle Sweet)

WASHINGTON — After losing her husband to the Iraq war, a Bowie mother began running as a way to cope. Running became Danielle Sweet’s anti-anxiety drug, her anti-depressant following the loss of her husband. Her husband was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007.

She says running became her biggest life-saver.

“It really helped me cope with my husband’s death and be able to just start living again.”

As she ran, she says, a little grief, a little sadness, a little anger and the overwhelming feeling of being eternally lost began to dissipate.

Now, she’s running to help others — especially the children of fallen heroes. She says she wants to give back and pay it forward. Sweet says this year she’s running a half-marathon each month to raise money for “Angels of America’s Fallen.”

The non-profit helps children whose hero paid the ultimate price. The organization, which helped her kids, provides healthy outlets and mentorship to children of fallen military, law enforcement and firefighters.

“It’s important to show our children how appreciative we are for people who’ve done so much for us and to be able to give back to them,” she says.

In her husband’s goodbye letter, he told her to “Live Your Life.” He said, “I died, but you didn’t.”

“That has been my driving force, something I think about every day.”

He died a week before he was to come home and he was buried two days before their daughter’s first birthday.

“On his 4-year anniversary (of his death), I ran my first full-marathon in his memory.” That was June 2011. The jersey she wore read “Live Your Life.”

On Saturday, she’ll run the race with her new husband, Chris Sweet, who lost his Air Force wife to leukemia. The two will be honoring her late husband and his late wife. Together the couple has five children, all of whom are being helped by “Angels of America’s Fallen.”

Sweet says after Saturday’s race, her next two races will be April in Annapolis and in May in Columbia, Md. In December, she’s running a full marathon to wrap up the year.

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