The 37th running of the Marine Corps Marathon is Sunday in the Washington, D.C. area, and all the while Hurricane Sandy is making its way up the east coast. Marine Corporal Ben McCrosky from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina runs with a prosthetic on his left leg. He is ready for the rain, if it happens. After all, he’s a Marine.
McCrosky is one of 30 combat wounded servicemen from the Achilles Freedom Team competing in the marathon or the 10K.
Veterans Affairs Examiner Catherine Lash had the opportunity to speak with three of the Achilles Freedom Team competitors.
“I Run Because I Can”
McCrosky is the 3rd generation of military servicemen in his family. While with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Afghanistan, his vehicle ran over an IED. One of the six men inside the vehicle lost his life. McCrosky lost his left leg below the knee.
He was introduced to Achilles International during his recovery at Walter Reed National Medical Center. Through the community support of the nonprofit Achilles, McCrosky has competed in several runs. Sunday’s race is his first marathon.
I run because I can run. There are people that can’t. The guys who can’t do it anymore — I’m real good friends with some of them. I met them at Walter Reed. We are very much a family. U.S. Marine Ben McCrosky from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
The Marine Corps Marathon is a good first marathon. The exorbitant fan support and military participation hangs on every step of the runner, while winding through the historic legacies of the nation’s memorials. Never the less, McCrosky says he has to block all of it out to keep his focus.
Saturday morning he completed a 1 1/2-mile-run to loosen up, then ate lunch with the Achilles competitors. They’re all wondering what this hurricane is going to do.
“There’s A Big Hill At The End”
U.S. Marine Zach Stinson left Walter Reed hospital a little over three weeks ago. Last week, he competed in the Army 10-Miler. Sunday, he will hand cycle the Marine Corps Marathon.
The 22-year-old lost both legs and four fingers due to an IED explosion in Afghanistan.
This is going to be a big change. It won’t go away. I have to keep a good attitude. I don’t have time to sulk about it. Stinson’s thoughts on transitioning into his new life.
His wife, Tesa, has been right there by his side. “I can’t explain how much she’s been there. When people see me, they don’t realize how much a caregiver does, too.” So, with the encouragement from his therapist and his wife, he began hand cycling with the Achilles Freedom Team.
He enjoys the support and accommodations provided through Achilles. “You can experience a marathon in a great way. They transport the bikes, make sure we have the gear, get us a room, a bike shirt and gloves to work the hand cranks. In all honesty, I never thought I would do a marathon.”
Stinson, admitting he doesn’t know much about the Marine Corps Marathon, says, “I know there’s a big hill at the end.” Tesa will be there, cheering him on, as well as his Freedom Team members. “It’s good to be around people that know where you’re coming from. Not every amputee walking around the streets has been blown up.”
“People Learn The Best When Tragedy Strikes”
One minute, he was walking — the next minute, he was blown up.
U.S. Army 101st Airborne Platoon Leader Cameron Kerr lost his left leg, below the knee, from an IED in Afghanistan. Kerr says it could have been worse.
According to findings from the post blast analysis, several chunks of homemade explosives within the casing failed to detonate — that attributed to excessive amounts of rain.
A few seconds after the explosion, the pain kicked in. “Like nothing you’ll ever imagine,” says Kerr. Up to a point, the administered morphine eased the pain.
He called his parents, letting them know he had lived through the experience, but lost his leg.
Kerr says he never really enjoyed running. Yet, as soon as he got his running leg, he wanted to run. He’s prepared for the Marine Corps 10K by running trails, three to six miles every few days. A goal for a 50-minute finish will not be an issue of cardio or muscle fatigue, explains Kerr.
“My tibia is bisected. Every time I take a step, my whole body goes on the bisected tibia. The impact on my stump is painful. I’m accepting that it’s going to hurt, and let it hurt.”
The spirit of the event, all the military that come out for it. It’s a great kind of positive feeling. You feel wow! America is the best!
Kerr is grateful to have the support and gentle peer pressure from Achilles International:
That translates into empowerment. It gives us that stability, confidence and strength — emotionally and mentally. It sets us up for unbounded success.
He has learned much through his recovery, and would not change any of it. “People learn the best when tragedy strikes. Through adversity, there’s always ways to find strength. The things I’ve learned through just my leg.”
Go here to learn more about Achilles International.