Iditarod Participant Visits Rotary Club
By Bob Augustin Jr.
Tennessee National Guard Master Sergeant Rodney D. Whaley of Franklin, Tennessee was the featured speaker at the June 20, 2008 meeting of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club. Master Sergeant Whaley was a participant in the 2008 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (usually shortened to just the Iditarod), an annual sled dog race held in Alaska, covering 1,161 miles from Willow to Nome. MSgt. Whaley is the first Tennessean to participate in the Iditarod.
The Iditarod, which began in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams, follows the Iditarod Trail, now a National Historical Trail, which was the mail supply trail from the coastal communities of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps and on to west coast communites around Nome. In 1925, a diptheria epidemic threatened to wipe out the population of Nome, and the Iditarod Trail became a life-saving highway to deliver the needed serum by sled dog mushers and teams.
Participating in the Iditarod has been his life-long dream, Master Sergeant Whaley explained, ever since moving to Alaska as a child with his Baptist Missionary parents. He lived his childhood in Alaska where he developed a passion for dog sled racing and participated in junior races in the 1960s. In 2008, his dream came true when he qualified and participated in the Iditarod. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the race. About half the way through the race, Whaley's dog team fell ill with a prolonged, high fever and he was forced to withdraw from the race to get treatment for his dogs.
Pictured above are MSgt. Rodney Whaley, his dog Maverick, and his wife Vicki.