Running for Those Who Can’t

From a young age, Sgt. Dustin Biggerstaff knew he wanted to serve in the military. His uncle served in the Army for 24 years, and seeing what military service meant first hand greatly impacted Dustin. His desire for a life of military service further intensified when he watched the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as a sophomore in high school. While still in high school, he decided to join JROTC. As a five letter athlete, JROTC perfectly combined his love for athletics with his desire to serve his country.

Dustin went on to play three varsity sports — soccer, track and field, and cross country — at The University of Kentucky. When he graduated in 2009, he worked as a personal trainer but said he still had a “burning desire” to be a part of the military. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2011.

After finishing boot camp, Dustin was selected to serve with the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion. This unit typically requires applications and a rigorous training program. Although Dustin went through the training program, his application was waived due to his athletic prowess, recognized early on by his superiors. To Dustin, his military career began the day he started the intensive training program for the reconnaissance team. “Graduating from the program is still one of the greatest accomplishments of my life,” he said.

Upon graduation, his unit intended to deploy to Afghanistan. But due to a number of factors, they switched courses, instead embarking on a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). On this deployment, Dustin and his unit completed a number of water and water-to-shore missions.

In 2015, while completing a training program with the Expeditionary Operations Training Group, Dustin was stabbed in the left eye. Due to his injury, his command was ambivalent as to whether Dustin could continue serving with the Marines on active duty. As such, he spent the next year doing several extracurricular activities to convince them that he was willing and able to continue serving with the Marines. Dustin’s hard work paid off, and he won a spot back on the team in 2016.

In July 2018, Dustin was deployed on a second MEU. While completing a training activity with his unit, Dustin sustained a second injury to his left eye. With two injuries to the same eye, the medical board told Dustin he would no longer be able to serve on active duty with the Marines. He medically retired on August 31, 2019.

Soon after he retired, Dustin connected with Semper Fi & America’s Fund. “They were a blessing from day one,” Dustin said. They immediately helped him with transitional grants, gas and grocery cards, and sent care packages to him and his family.

As a natural athlete, sports became a large part of Dustin’s recovery and transition from active duty. He continued to play contact sports throughout his time in the Marines, but after his injury, he focused on endurance sports, particularly running, instead. He became a member of Team Semper Fi’s Runner’s Battalion, finding that it was not only a way to do what he loved but also a way to connect with other veterans. “Having like-minded people, who are military-centric and family-centric, has made it easier to deal with the day-to-day frustrations,” Dustin said.

Dustin was so touched by The Fund’s support that he wanted to do something in return. So in 2020, he set out to run 2,020 miles — not including cycling or swimming miles — to raise support for The Fund. He completed the virtual Chicago and Boston Marathons, as well as the Marine Corps 50k. By the end of the year, he had raised over $10,000 for The Fund and had run over 2,200 miles. His final race of 2020 was an in-person marathon in Georgia, which he won. He crossed the finish line wearing a Semper Fi & America’s Fund jersey on which he wrote the names of every individual who supported him. “It’s a bit beat-up at this point,” Dustin laughs, “But it's a great memento representing the support of so many people.”

As Dustin continues to train, The Fund is dedicated to helping him compete at the highest level, providing training equipment and covering race entry fees. In October, Dustin will be competing in his first in-person Boston Marathon. “I qualified,” he said, “But The Fund covered everything else. I would not be going if it were not for them.”

Cheering him on from the sidelines are Dustin’s wife and two children. The Biggerstaffs live in Georgia, and to Dustin, family time is his favorite pastime. “We love to just be together—whatever the activity may be,” he says.

In January 2022, Dustin will face a new challenge and will begin school for his doctorate of Chiropractics. Like every challenge he’s faced, we at The Fund know Dustin will rise to the occasion and succeed.