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Everyday Hero: Local woman is key organizer of race honoring female military members killed in combat

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Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 18:10:15-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - She is a former Naval officer, an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University, coaches her kid's basketball team and is a key organizer of this Sunday's Valor Run. Missy Cotter Smasal is literally on the go and stresses this event is open to everyone.

"So, we welcome runners or walkers, whoever wants to come out! But we have a 5K option, which is 3.1 miles; we have a 10-mile option, and we have 13.1 half marathon."

The race winds its way through scenic First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. Missy, who is an avid runner and a veteran, is very passionate about the even because of its mission - honoring women members of the U.S. military who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving since 9/11.

"And we really want to acknowledge the true sacrifices these heroes have made. It's called Valor Run because these are women of valor," she explained.

And that's an important distinction for this race, says Valor Run board member Susan Seaman Bore.

"Something that's really interesting that sets our race apart is that the 177 women we honor are women who died overseas during combat operations, so that's really an important part."

And in honoring those women, Missy adds there's a very powerful stretch of the run.

"And during our race, we will have a memory mile, where we'll have pictures of the women lined up, so the runners, while they're running, can make sure they're honoring and remembering through their run," Missy said. "And as you're running through and seeing the pictures of women from 18 to 50 years old, you know these women have been true, brave, Americans and you're so proud to get to run and honor and remember them."

Missy, who has run this race in prior years, felt so strongly about its mission that she took on multiple duties to help out, as another board member, C.T. Cunninghame, points out.

"And Missy said, 'I'll do that, too!' So, she is our executive director and race director for this race. We literally couldn't do it without her!"

Susan wholeheartedly agrees.

"She is the backbone of our organization!"

For all that Missy is doing, News 3 present her with an Everyday Hero award, along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.

Missy was very grateful and surprised and wanting the focus to be on the race.

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"I'm just... I'm really here because I just believe in the mission of the Valor so much, and all of these people have really worked hard on it!"

The run is also a scholarship fundraiser for the dependents of women who have served overseas since 9/11. And right now, there is still time to register for Sunday's race. If you can't make it, there is a tab on their website that allows you to donate.

Click here for more information on the Valor Run.

To nominate someone for an Everyday Hero Award, click here.