Bobcat Battalion races to support wounded veterans and their families

April 23, 2014

Melinda Leen is a freshman and a senior, a veteran and a cadet, only 24 and the oldest student in her dorm.  Not that it matters to her.  She rolls her eyes when asked whether she is a non-traditional student.  She brushes her brow as if pushing hair away, though her hair is too short for the motion to be necessary.  “I guess,” she says, “I mean, I did the Army thing out of high school, and I’m older than all the other [Reserve Officer Training Corps] cadets.”

Leen grew up in a small town in western Ohio, where she played in the high school band.  “I wasn’t ready for college [after] high school, so I joined the Army.”  After Basic Combat Training and nearly a year of Advanced Individual Training as an intelligence equipment technician, Leen did two tours of duty in Iraq.  When her enlistment ended, she decided she was ready for college.  The only place she applied was Ohio University.  “My mom went here, so I heard about OU a lot growing up.”  She smiles.  “Our high school band was modeled on the 110, so there was never really any question.  And I love the campus.” 

When the Bobcat Battalion ROTC decided to participate in the OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital's Race for a Reason, the organizational duties fell to Leen.  With only a short time to prepare, she and fellow cadet Alex Hambelton moved quickly to organize a bake sale and donation website.  They also devised more creative fundraisers.  “Tomorrow we’re having a pie-in-the-face fundraiser” she says, impishly, “so any cadets who want to donate can cream any of the [ROTC] cadre.”

Race for a Reason is a unique charity event featuring a 5k run, 3k walk, a sprint triathlon, and a 4.5 mile mud-run.  In addition to the multi-sport format, the event is unique because it allows participants to raise money for a charity of their own choosing.  The Ohio University ROTC sponsors the mud-run, the event Leen and Hambelton will compete in.  The Bobcat Battalion chose Folds of Honor as the beneficiary of its fundraising efforts.  According to Leen, Folds of Honor is an organization dedicated to helping the families of soldiers wounded or killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars.  “It can be so hard to go through that situation so closely,” Leen says, “but not be that soldier.  It’s often harder for the family.”  The ROTC has a goal of raising $2,500 for the charity.  So far it has collected $2,301, with more than half raised directly by Leen.  The race takes place Saturday, April 25, and donations to Folds of Honor can be made until April 30 at

“We’re honored to be a part of this,” says Leen, “this is a great organization doing the really important work of caring for our wounded veterans.  We hope to reach our goal this year, and to raise even more next year.”

Leen transferred credits to Ohio University from community college and the Army, which gives her senior status according to the University, though she is in the freshman year of her degree program.  She went from service in Iraq to being an ROTC cadet, but the technicalities don’t seem to worry her much.  Melinda Leen is a soldier and Ohio University student who is ready to race for a reason. 

For more information about the O'Bleness Hospital Race for a Reason or to register, visit or call 740-401-9482.

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