Capt. Elizabeth Hagner ()
After losing three family members to cancer, Marine Capt. Elizabeth Hagner last year decided enough was enough. She committed to taking an active role in helping cancer research.
The Freeland, Md., native talked to her friends and family and decided to participate in the 2010 Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society's annual event in which volunteers raise money based on the miles they walk.
"It's a great way to get the family together for a good cause," Hagner said.
Hagner, then based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., took leave to participate, and her family raised more than $700.
This year, Hagner transferred to II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan. She's now commander of the group's Female Engagement Team ó servicewomen who interact with Afghan women and children to help with community development programs.
In April, barely a month into her deployment, Hagner's uncle died from stomach cancer. He was the fourth family member she had lost to cancer, after two grandmothers and an aunt.
Hagner and her family then set a goal to raise more than $1,000 for this year's Relay for Life in Baltimore in June. There was just one problem: Hagner couldn't be there.
Her family and friends decided they would still participate, and their team raised $1,700. Hagner even video-chatted with them via computer in between laps.
Hagner's deployment ends early this fall, and she said she looks forward to seeing her family and participating in next year's relay.
"I should be able to take [vacation] again, so I can actually go participate with the rest of my family," she said.