Written by Staff Sgt. Barbara Ospina
5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – Soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) took advantage of an opportunity provided by the Boston Athletic Association and the Massachusetts State Police to run in the prestigious Boston Marathon April 16th.
The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) reserves a number of complimentary slots for the marathon strictly for military service members. The number of slots can change year to year, but the concept and generosity associated with it does not. This year six Soldiers from the 5th SFG (A), otherwise known as The Legion, participated in the world-renowned race without having to qualify.According to Barbara Sicuso, the Director of Registration for the Boston Athletic Association, the program started as part of an effort to help facilitate military service members unable to train or participate in the race due to military training and deployments.
The program has since grown. Not only does the program allow approximately 140 slots for military runners every year, but it also hosts “Boston Marathons” at pre-determined locations overseas for those who are deployed.
“They held the Afghanistan one just last night,” said Sicuso. The participants overseas run the required 26.2 miles and receive the same marathon medal; the only major difference is that they are in a combat zone.
The BAA developed an avenue to support the growing number of military individuals wishing to participate in the marathon and the Massachusetts State Police jumped at the opportunity to expand on the program.
Detective Lt. William Coulter and Retired Lt. Steve Pugsley, of the Massachusetts State Police, started a small unique program where they work to combine the military runners with the slots that their organization receives. By combining the two it presents the police the opportunity to show their gratitude and support by providing additional luxuries and benefits for their military counterparts.
The State Police reduced the stress for military participants on race day by providing an escort to the start line. Runners traditionally ride a school bus from a parking area to the start line area. However, military and police participants were picked up by several chartered buses, made available due to donations received strictly from personnel within the State Police, and taken to the start area. As the buses traveled down the interstate police officers stopped traffic to ensure a smooth delivery of the occupants. The buses met the group after the race and delivered them to a social that evening where members from both of the organizations could reminisce about the day’s events.
According to Coulter and Pugsley, they provide this kind of treatment to their military friends every year.
“They truly are the heroes. We wish we could do a lot more,” commented Pugsley when asked about all they do for the military.
“It was really meant as an appreciation thing,” said Coulter. “In reality we are only giving them one day back. They give anywhere from six to 12 months of their lives. We just try to give them one good day –even a marathon is a good day.”