July 14, 2017
When she returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, Sergeant Tishara Gilliam, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, knew she was very different from the person who had left 12 months before. What she didn’t expect was the difference that had taken place in her baby girl, London.
“When I got off that plane, London wasn’t just walking, she took off running,” said Gilliam, a recently retired Army logistician who had deployed after leaving London, at 7-months-old, with Gilliam’s parents.
According to Gilliam, London has been running ever since that day. “She’s always running – even in flip flops. She has always liked to play tag because no one can catch her.”
Consequently, Gilliam told London, “I’m just gonna have you run for real,” and she used a grant from Our Military Kids to enroll London, at age 7, in the Sonic Boom Running Club at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. The track club, established in 1999, is made up of athletes, ages 5-18, who compete locally and nationally.
With less than a year of competitive running under her pint-sized belt, London has now set her team’s mile-run record, and is going to compete in national junior olympic games in Detroit at the end of this month.
The games are sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union, founded in 1888 to establish standards in amateur sports. The first AAU Junior Olympic Games opened in 1967, in Washington DC, with 523 athletes. Since then, the games have become the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the country. They have occurred in 19 states and 30 cities.
At age 7, London runs the mile in 7 minutes, 22 seconds – not bad, considering, according to Livestrong.com, the average 12-year-old girl, in the top half of her peers, runs the mile in about 11 minutes.
As a single parent experiencing emotional ups and downs linked to wartime trauma, Gilliam said she has tried to teach London that bad things can happen, but that they can make a person stronger than before.
“London knows I have PTSD,” said Gilliam. “In fact, she’s protective of me sometimes. She was born on Thanksgiving.”
Gilliam, has two other children, Anaiah, 10, and K’Marian, 4, who also received Our Military Kids grants. The family will grow again in August, when Gilliam marries a man she has known 11 years.
“He’s been my rock,” she said.