Air Force veteran pays tribute to fallen heroes by racing in 5K with wheelchair

**Embargo: Tampa, FL** Andy Bernt served 26 years as a firefighter and EMT in the United States Air Force.

Tampa, FL — Right outside the gates of MacDill Air Force Base, Andy Bernt, can only get as close as Gadsden Park to watch the aircrafts buzz by.

Twelve years ago, Bernt was forced to retire after he woke up one day and was paralyzed from the chest down.

“I went to bed, six hours later, I was paralyzed,” he said.

Bernt has spent the last twelve years in a wheelchair after he was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

He served 26 years as a firefighter and EMT in the United States Air Force.

This weekend, he’s getting ready to race his heart out for the 5K VIP Warriors Memorial Race in Oldsmar by pushing himself in his wheelchair.

“This weekend is Memorial Day, for the veterans that paid the ultimate price to keep this country free,” he said, “I will be dedicating this push, this three mile push for them.”

The race will be by the same management that brought the World Famous Oldsmar Tap House 5K.

VIP Warriors is a local non-profit organization that provides equipment for military veterans who need assistance.

For Bernt, he’s mastered the skill set it takes to race with his upper body — he’s completed a 10 mile race in his wheelchair.