Retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Pruitt and his wife, Amber, decided to take their three children to Crescent City for the Fourth of July festivities.
The Pruitts - Texas natives who moved to Redding last year - had also heard about the Crescent City Fourth of July 5K Walk and 5K/10K Fun Run. It intrigued Adrian, who hadn't run in any kind of race, fun or competitive, in over six years. He and his son Austin, 13, signed up.
One year ago, such an event as the Fun Run seemed out of reach for Adrian Pruitt. For war-related reasons, he was unable to walk without assistance, requiring a power wheelchair for mobility purposes. His pain was such that he was taking 50-60 pills a day.
On Thursday, he traversed the five kilometers down Pebble Beach Drive, through downtown Crescent City and along Front Street in 32 minutes, 17 seconds, the 87th finisher in a field of 131 runners. (Austin finished 25th overall, in 25:41.)
"It's a miracle," Amber Pruitt said. "(Adrian) was pretty much bedridden for five years."
What got him to this point?
"A lot of prayer, the support of my wife and boys, the desire not to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life," Adrian Pruitt said. "I'd like to thank God, my wife, my boys and my fellow veterans."
Pruitt served 18 years and seven months, by his count, in the Air Force, including tours of duty in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. "I've been in the desert so many times," he said.
Pruitt's body was taxed in the form of nerve pain from "hips to toes, shoulders to fingers," he said. He was put on bed rest in December 2007 and began using a power wheelchair a few months later.
"I couldn't feed myself at times," Pruitt said.
While the recovery process has been arduous, it has apparently been complicated by the benefits package that Pruitt received upon his retirement. Pruitt signed a Change.org petition entitled "Congress: Receipt of Earned Military Retirement and VA Disability for ALL Retirees" in May 2012.
"I completed 18 years and 7 months and since I got sick, I was unable to complete my 20 years for retirement," Pruitt wrote on Change.org. "Since this is the case, I feel that I should be receiving my retired military pay and my 100% disability pay from the (Department of Veterans Affairs).
"I'm tired of being told, I can't receive both, because I did not complete 20 years. I've been treated as though I just quit right before my 20 years and therefore should not get my insurance."
For one day, at least, the struggles were forgotten, as Amber Pruitt and sons Alijah, 4, and Asa, 11 months, rooted on Adrian and Austin during the Fun Run.
Crescent City left a favorable impression in the minds of the Pruitts.
"We love it here," Pruitt said. "We're actually considering moving here next summer. It's such an amazing community. Nobody knew who I was, but everybody treated me so well."
Reach Robert Husseman at firstname.lastname@example.org .