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Last Friday morning, at roughly 4:30 am, Cyndy Jones stood inside her Mashpee garage, uttering a benign statement to a group of relative strangers as they sipped coffee and chewed on muffins, trail mix and fruit.
“I’ll be praying that you make it back safely,” she said to seven runners and two drivers, one of which happened to be me, who had chosen to run 220 miles across Cape Cod, all while carrying a 30-pound backpack as part of the 2nd Annual RUCK4HIT relay race. In the background was an easel, holding an enlarged photo of a smiling Eric Jones, Cyndy’s son, who was the reason we were standing there in the first place.
Nearly eight years ago, Captain Jones of the US Marines was flying a combat mission when his helicopter crashed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. He was only 29 with a full life ahead of him. I wonder how many times Cyndy and her husband Ken prayed for their own son to make it back safely when he was serving overseas.
Just six hours prior to our arrival at the Jones’ house, I stood quietly in a circle with my fellow teammates as our team captain Alec Reisberg of Long Beach, California, addressed us outside one of the cottages he was staying at in Sandwich. A veteran who served seven years in the US Marines, Reisberg handed each one of us a camouflage patch with the last name of an American soldier who had died while serving our country. advertisement
Mine sported the name of Corral, short for Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua “Chachi” Corral of Danville, California. In 2009, he was killed just two months shy of his 20th birthday when an IED exploded while he was sweeping for bombs in southern Afghanistan. Reisberg told us each one of these men were now our battle buddies and would be watching over us during the next 36 hours when we became exhausted and felt like quitting.
We were running, and driving, for them, Reisberg said. From 12:30 last Friday morning, when our team, Match Grade Apparel, departed the Courtyard Restaurant in Bourne, with 11 other teams and 99 other participants, to 12:30 last Saturday afternoon, when we arrived at the finish line at Dino’s Restaurant in Mashpee, these fallen servicemen were with us in spirit.
And so was Captain Eric Jones.
Following his death, I’m sure there were times when his parents went through similar emotions – fatigue, anger, sadness, anxiety – that those running this past weekend’s race did. In the end, Cyndy and Ken Jones persevered, forming the nonprofit Heroes In Transition (HIT), that provides support for our current and former servicemen and women.
In honor of them and in support of HIT, over 100 men and women ran through each town on Cape Cod in some of the worst springtime weather imaginable. Through howling winds and pouring rain, with 20-30 pounds on their back, people ran not because they had to, but because they wanted to. Because there are people, like Eric Jones and Joshua Corral, who can’t.