THHS grad heads Guard’s Pink Tank ProjectIn recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Minnesota National Guard has gone pink.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Minnesota National Guard has gone pink.
The Pink Tank Project was rolled out Oct.1, with the release of the first of four awareness videos, and the creation of a website and Facebook page.
The effort, according to 1986 Two Harbors High School graduate and Minnesota National Guard Deputy Director of Public Affairs Maj. Kristen (Lambert) Auge, is intended to spread the word about the importance of proactive measures to improve health outcomes for the one in eight women who will be affected by the disease.
“The project is to build breast cancer awareness for all women, whether they wear a uniform or not. The Pink Tank Project is a promise — a promise to yourself to conduct monthly breast self-exams and have mammograms as recommended by your health care provider,” she said. By joining the project’s Facebook page, participants will receive monthly reminders to perform self-exams, an important strategy for early detection of breast changes that may signal a problem.
Auge’s commitment to this initiative goes beyond the creation of an effective awareness campaign. It’s personal, she said. The Pink Tank Project, which has included input from a team of service members, was inspired by women she has known, all of whom have been touched by the disease. Each tells her story in one of the project’s videos.
“Sergeant First Class Brenda Woods is a five-year breast cancer survivor, and her mother is currently being treated for the same disease. She said, ‘when I found out I had breast cancer, right away I decided that this was not going to do me. This is not my time,’” Auge said. Another service member lost her battle two years ago at age 37.
Iraq war veteran Sgt. Brenda Geise passed away in November 2011 after her cancer returned for the second time. She left behind a daughter, Korleen, who shares the story of her loss and what it has taught her.
“(Korleen) would give anything to have her back, but her attitude is very much like her mother’s. She is living life to the fullest and is able to find the positive even in the tough moments,” Auge said. One woman, Sgt. Cassie Mecuk, a military human-resource specialist, continues her fight. She was first diagnosed at age 24. Now, at 28 and with a 7-year old daughter, the disease has returned for a third time and has metastasized.
Mecuk credits the guard for giving her the mental toughness to move forward, despite the hurdles.
“Many people have been touched by her … she just keeps going,” Auge said. Mecuk’s determination and that of the other warriors in the videos made a pink tank the ideal symbol for the campaign. The vulnerability of women to breast cancer gave it its tag line: “Like a tank we are strong, but not invincible.” For the one in eight who will be diagnosed with the disease, the Pink Tank Project and awareness efforts like it are necessary tools for battle.
“In the military, service members are responsible for providing oversight for their battle buddies. Women band together and form support networks to make it through the rigors of combat,” she said. “Breast cancer is no different. We must commit to our ethos of ‘never leaving a fallen comrade’ and we must ‘never quit’ until all women know the importance of doing regular self-checks, getting mammograms and following up on early detection.”
Geise will be honored as a Minnesota Vikings Hometown Hero at this Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers. Korleen will accept the award on her mother’s behalf. Woods will be named that day’s “Soldier of the Game.
To join the Pink Tank Project on Facebook visit www.facebook.com/pinktankproject. Learn more about the Pink Tank Project and watch Auge’s videos featuring Mecuk, Woods and Geise at www.minnesotanationalguard.org/pinktank.