The soldiers who dressed in full gear to race the Boston Marathon on Monday hoped to symbolize the sacrifices military members make. But when tragedy struck, they showed the world what it really means to serve.
A crew of 15 active-duty solders from the Massachusetts National Guard walked the marathon on Monday, wearing their fatigues and carrying 40 pounds of gear on their backs, to honor their fallen comrades and to raise funds for charity, USA Today reports. But after the explosions struck, the runners raced into action to help, despite the fact that some were overwhelmed by the carnage they witnessed.
"When you're over there, you almost expect it," First Sgt. Bernard Madore, who served two deployments in Iraq, told USA Today. "I've seen bombs go off. This was by far one of the most horrific scenes."
The group of racers, who took about eight hours to complete the 26.2-mile trek, was near the finish line on Monday when the blasts went off and quickly mobilized into action.
“We just tore that (fence) down and just allowed us to get in there and pull what was remaining -- the burning debris, burning clothes -- all the stuff that was on these people, just try to clean it the best we could,” 1st Lt. Steve Fiola, who participated in the march, told the Military Times.
Fiola also cleared debris off people, prepared for triage and helped victims in distress. The military member raced to the aid of a victim who was covered in blood and whose clothes were on fire. He reached into the man's pocket and pulled out a handkerchief that was burning, according to Mother Jones.
The racers also got some help from Tough Ruck volunteer Carlos Arredondo, who came to the race to honor his two deceased sons, according to the group’s Facebook page. Arredondo’s son Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo was killed in Iraq in 2004 and his other son, Brian, committed suicide after battling depression following his brother’s death, according to ABC.
But Arredondo didn’t hesitate to redirect his mission just as the soldiers did. He immediately leapt from the bleachers where he was sitting to help Jeff Bauman, a spectator who was critically injured in the explosion and whose legs were amputated in the aftermath.
Once the survivors were carried away, the men stationed themselves at the scene to secure it and keep others from entering, Mother Jones reports.
“They embody the best of our military community,” Tough Ruck said in a statement on its Facebook page, “and are why we do what we do.”