News: Firefighters to hike upcoming Honolulu Marathon to benefit wounded warriors
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
At last December’s Honolulu Marathon, a group of five Marines stood out among the throng of T-shirt and running shorts-clad competitors. Wearing boots, woodland utility trousers, and weighed down by flak jackets and 60 pound packs, these five Marines from Aircraft Rescue Firefighting, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, were not there to simply complete the 26.3-mile course.
Their uniforms and a green donation box signified a mission greater than themselves — honoring and raising money for their brothers- and sisters-in-arms at Wounded Warrior Battalion West, Detachment Hawaii. It’s a mission they’ll take up again next month.
“We wanted to stand out among the other runners so everyone watching would know we were running for the wounded Marines and sailors,” said Sgt. Fernando Camacho, assistant section leader, ARFF. “Being that we’re here and they’re serving overseas, we’re doing our part to raise some money and make sure they’re taken care of.”
After raising $4,700 for the detachment last year, they are hoping to more than double their donation to $10,000 for this year’s race Dec. 12, said Cpl. Nathan Whitaker, rescue man, ARFF, of Burlington, Iowa.
Many of the ARFF Marines have friends or members of their home communities who have been injured during combat operations, so participating in the race and raising money for the wounded warriors carries a deeper, more personal significance.
“Marines take care of their own, and that’s what we’re doing by running the marathon,” said Cpl. Brandon Cox, an ARFF crew chief from Franklin, Ind.
During last year’s marathon alone, the five ARFF Marines raised approximately $1,300, nearly a third of their total donations. Nearly every half of a mile, Whitaker said spectators and fellow participants stopped them to donate, and thank them for their efforts and service.
The course was long and exhausting for the weighed-down Marines, but the decision they had made to help their brothers and sisters kept them going. Even when they were physically spent at the 16th mile, Camacho, of Chicago, said the motivation of their cause and the pride they would gain by finishing the challenging venture drove them onward.
Besides raising money for the wounded warriors, the ARFF Marines are hoping their presence at the marathon will keep the local community aware of the sacrifices being made by service members.
“We want to remind people that we’re still involved in operations overseas, and that Marines and sailors are still going out there and coming back injured,” Camacho said.
In the next few weeks, the ARFF Marines running in the marathon plan to visit different units to brief Marines and sailors on what they are doing.
Donations can be directly deposited into a non-profit savings account at Windward Community Federal Credit Union next to the commissary here. The account is under the name “Wounded Warrior Fund,” and 100 percent of the funds will be donated to WWD, HI. Funds may also be dropped off at ARFF, Building 1168, near the flight line.
To schedule a unit brief or for more information, contact Whitaker or Camacho at 808-257-3212.