Details released for this years Boston Marathon, and I'm sad.
There are very few days in Boston that I love more than Patriots Day, or as it's affectionately known, Marathon Monday. I'm usually broadcasting live from the finish line as the winners, and the thousands of other runners who just can’t wait to finish, come down that famous last stretch on Boylston Street. I've been doing it for years, and I love it.
Everyone knows what happened on April 15th, 2013. We saw the worst and best of what humanity is capable of. 3 people died during the bombings at the Boston Marathon, another died while the suspects were trying to flee days later, hundreds more were injured, and millions felt their foundations shaken to the core. Bostonians have been dealing with a case of PTSD ever since. That is the part everyone knows, here is the part you may not know...
(Boston Marathon 2011)
For the last few years, uniformed soldiers carrying full ruck sacks, have been "rucking” the marathon. They leave long before the runners and even before the sun comes up in Hopkinton. Those rucks weight on average 40lbs, which is less than half of what our troops carry on the battle field. When they come towards the finish, the crowds chant "USA...USA..." and it's beautiful. The ruckers and Team Hoyt are my 2 favorite things about the marathon, and I wait for them every year! Last year, the ruckers organized and started the "Tough Ruck" with a goal of raising money for the Military Friends Foundation, which helps Soldiers and their families in times of need.
Last Spring, I took a road trip with some of "My Guys", members of the 1-182 Infantry from the Mass. Army National Guard that I met and was embedded with in Afghanistan in 2011. We drove to DC, a trip that none of them had ever made, with the goal of visiting some fallen soldiers we knew were buried at Arlington. It would have been a cathartic trip for us anyway, but it was just weeks after the marathon. These members of the 182 had been activated to help secure the city after the bombing. We couldn't believe the love and support we received from everyone we met during the trip when they saw our Red Sox and Bruins hats and shirts, even at a Washington Capitals game, Boston was truly loved.
We started talking about taking that love, and channeling it back into something, like the Tough Ruck. After we returned from DC, the 182 and the MANG saw a string of tragedies hit close to home. Suicide rates among our Veterans are at epidemic levels, and unfortunately we saw that first hand last year. After attending several funerals together, standing shoulder to shoulder, with tears dripping down our grief stricken faces, "My Guys" and I decided... We're doing it. We're doing the Tough Ruck! You see the purpose of the Tough Ruck is to carry the ruck sack of someone who isn't here anymore to do it themselves. It's a tribute to a fallen soldier, and you wear their name on your ruck, on yellow ribbon for all 26.2 miles. We hoped to put a team together of 22 people, since we lose 22 Veterans a day to suicide. We got 26, and that's just from the 182. Over 500 soldiers from over 30 States signed up to ruck, all still active in the US military, and special permission was given to their adopted embedded DJ, me.
We started the team, and began fundraising. Team WAAF & 1-182 Infantry raised over $19,000 before we could even get on the air to announce our plans. The friends and families of the fallen, loved the idea of donating in their lost loved ones honor, and we cherished the idea of training together, and dreamed of crossing that finish line together. We wanted to honor those that we have lost, and hopefully show others that are having a hard time adjusting to being home, that there is hope. Our troops have been dealing with PTSD for years, and now sadly, Boston understands what it's like. But, just like our troops, Boston is tough, and can overcome any obstacle that is put in its way! That's what Boston Strong is right?
(Boston Marathon 2013)
On Marathon Monday 2013, about 40 ruckers were on the course, with a support staff of volunteers there to help along the route. Some of the soldiers that had just completed the ruck famously helped to pull down the barricades and lend aid to the injured. They saved lives that day, and have received awards and praise for it. One of the Tough Ruck volunteers was named Carlos Arredondo, you may know him as the "Man in the Cowboy Hat". His story and that of Jeff Bauman are the things legends are made of. Carlos pinched the artery of Jeff's crudely amputated leg, and helped to get him to a hospital, which saved his life. But, it saved a lot of other lives too. Jeff Bauman, is the reason why the FBI had a description of one of the bombers, and the linchpin to their identification and capture. The question should be asked... What if...What if the Tough Ruck didn't happen, and Carlos wasn't there to help Jeff Bauman?
Well, this year the ruckers won’t be there. This year, because of the tightened security for the marathon, no back packs or “rucks”, or “military props” will be allowed on or near the course. Yup, you read that right… Active and uniformed members of our own military, cannot wear “back packs” on the course. (by the way, soldiers in uniform do not carry "props")
I understand that security is the first priority for the marathon participants, volunteers, and the spectators, but I’m also extremely sad and somewhat confused. For the first time in years, there will be no USA…USA… chant as members of our military turn the corner onto Boylston Street. I’m so sad for all of the ruckers, and for the Tough Ruck staff. It was such a special part of an amazing day, and this year, more than any other, the City of Boston could have used it. I know “My Guys” could have. The bombers took the innocence of our marathon, but they may have taken a bit of its heart as well.
The good news is, the Tough Ruck will happen Patriots Day weekend, and the memories of our fallen soldiers will be honored. Donations will be raised, and the details for all of it are on the way. When the new date, time, and location of the Tough Ruck are confirmed, please support the Tough Ruck and the soldiers who are trying to pay tribute to our fallen heroes.
I'll see you on Boylston Street, at the finish line, cheering on the runners and our beautiful city!