Heroes run to the sound of explosions
On Marathon Monday, a group of local Soldiers will gather at the Boston Marathon start line at dawn to march in honor of Massachusetts fallen heroes. The group will be doing a 26.2 mile “Tough Ruck” march in military uniforms and carrying their ruck sacks which can weigh up to 45 pounds. “Tough Ruck” leader First Lieutenant Steve Fiola of Fitchburg, a Massachusetts Army National Guardmember, and his Soldiers are raising money to support families of fallen heroes through the Military Friends Foundation.
“This partnership that we are starting with Military Friends is extremely exciting. To be able to work with these amazing people who are so dedicated to helping the families of our lost brothers and sisters from the Commonwealth is wonderful. This will be my fifth time doing this course and the support that we receive while on the historically challenging 26.2 miles is inspiring. Working with Military Friends will allow us to give back to those families who also inspire us with their courage and strength. 26.2 miles won’t bring our friends and comrades back, if it could we would walk around the world a hundred times over, but since it won’t this is a great place to start,” said 1LT Steve Fiola.
And after the 26.2 miles, Lt. Fiola and the others started work. Just imagine that. Most people can’t contemplate a marathon. These folks not only did it with heavy rucks, but when they got there, they had to do the equivalent of battlefield Combat Medic testing.
[First Sgt. Bernard] Madore, 1st Lt. Steve Fiola and Staff Sgt. Mark Welch – all guardsmen in the 1060th Transportation Company and Massachusetts natives – were near the finish line when two explosions came in quick succession. They ordered other guardsmen at the scene to help direct people out of the chaos, while the three men ran toward it.
"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," said Fiola, who organized the ruck.
Fiola said he helped put out a fire from a handkerchief a man had in his pants. Emergency workers needed clean rags and water, and Madore said he found a baby blanket and took it to her before helping with triage. Welch first helped clear the bleachers on the opposite side of the street before going to the site of the explosion.
Comparisons to an IED were apt, they said.
"Just disturbing," said Welch, who previously served two deployments in Iraq. "I've obviously seen stuff like this before, but to have it happen on our own turf, it's a little different. Limbs gone. Fingers away from the bodies."
Their service didn’t go unnoticed by the Massachusetts State Adjutant General who was a witness:
“I know who they were, and I will be meeting with each of them personally to thank them for their service,” Rice said. “This was a great tragedy; it’s interesting what adrenaline does to you, and that feeling of adrenaline was in the air yesterday afternoon. Some label it as fear, but for us in the military, one of the things we do is channel that to a be a heightened sense of energy to provide what assistance we can at the scene. My three soldiers did just that, and they are still out and about in Boston helping.”
Amongst the horror and recriminations of what happened on Patriots Day, it is important to bear in mind the Guardsmen who upheld the grand traditions of the Commonwealth. We cover a lot of negative stuff, but these guys, they exemplify everything that is great about our country.