By Oren Goodman | Carlsbad Patch | Carlsbad.Patch.com | August 24, 2011
Capt. Robert Hillery is both the U.S. Marine Corps Male Athlete of the Year for 2009 and a humanitarian. At Tuesday night’s council meeting, he was honored for both with a city proclamation.
As Mayor Matt Hall introduced Hillery, the traditional Marine Corps yell of “Oorah!” was shouted from Hillery’s friends and family. The mayor, an Army veteran, wanted a better cheer.
“Want to do that once more, in sync?” Hall asked with a grin. Hall joined them in the cheer, and then gave background information about Hillery, saying the captain had moved to Carlsbad in 2004 to serve at Camp Pendleton and has been a Marine for many years.
Before reading the proclamation, Hall took a moment to honor all members of the military. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to not only you but all the men and women that are in our armed services,” said Hall.
He also explained why it took so long for Hillery to receive the proclamation. “That’s how it works in the U.S. Marine Corps. They can be a day behind sometimes,” he joked.
Hillery began competing in marathons and triathlons and, through that, met many new friends and got involved with a charity, “The Semper Fi Fund.”
“He raises awareness for the organization by racing and always carrying the American flag during his portion of the race,” Hall told the crowd at the council meeting.
Hillery has participated in 32 marathons since 2003, “a multitude of triathlons since 2008, and his first Iron Man in 2009, and he began the tradition of carrying the American flag in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 2010,” said Hall. He also said Hillery participated in a three-day triathlon called the “Ultra Man,” which takes place twice each year, once in Hawaii and once in Canada. Hillery is the only the 16th person to compete at both places in the same year.
After Hillery formally received his proclamation, he was asked, to his surprise, to say a few words. “I didn’t know I was supposed to speak; no one gave me that warning.” He thanked the mayor, the City Council, and his family and friends. He said that he hopes “to raise awareness for a good cause, like the Semper Fi Fund, in hopes that the word reaches more people … so they look it up and see what it’s all about and how they support Marines that are wounded.”
The Semper Fi Fund provides financial assistance to injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Hillery said the Semper Fi Fund also buys spots for Marines to compete in the Marine Corps Marathon, which can sell out quickly.
Hillery said he “came up with a fundraising campaign in 2010, called ‘One in Ten.’ ” He asked donors to pledge just $1 for every race he completed in 2010—and to tell five friends about the campaign and ask them to do the same. The project is ongoing.
Although his duties as a Marine sometimes limit his ability to race, Hillery said he plans to remain active and to continue to raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi cause.