As the world’s eyes were drawn to the devastating fire that burned its way through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one U.S. Marine caught the attention of those around him as he crawled his way across the finish line in honor of the buddies he lost in an IED explosion that almost took his own life.
Initially overshadowed by the shocking footage of the cathedral burning across the pond, the annual marathon in Boston — six years after a deadly terrorist attack — had a defining moment: the sacrifice of one Marine who was fighting to commemorate three men who lost their lives in service to their countries.
According to the Marine Corps Times, Micah Herndon was riding in a vehicle in Afghanistan in 2010 with his fellow Marines and a war journalist when three IEDs (improvised explosive devices) went off beneath them.
Marines Mark Juarez and Matthew Ballard, as well as British journalist Rupert Hamer, were killed in the first explosion. The third explosion launched Herndon out of the vehicle, knocking him unconscious.
“Survivor’s guilt, it’s real,” the now-31-year-old veteran said. “I definitely have it because I was the lead machine-gunner on that convoy and I didn’t see that bomb that was buried. I live with that every day.”
“I never will be able to get over it, I don’t think, but I am coping. I am trying to get rid of the demons."
“There’s a reason why I’m here. I’m just trying to find out what that reason is for,” he added.
Herndon certainly brought attention to the sacrifices of service members and their families when he tied Juarez’, Ballard’s, and Hamer’s names to his running shoe and raced for the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And that’s when severe leg cramps almost forced him to drop out of the race within sight of the finish line.
He did the only thing he could do to complete the race. He painfully crawled the rest of the way across the asphalt.
(Editor’s note: ESPN was corrected by many Marines who informed them that there’s no such thing as a “former Marine.”)
Herndon completed the race in three hours and 38 minutes, not putting him close to being a top contender. But for the Ohio man, running hasn’t been about winning races: it’s been about healing.
According to the Record-Courier, he started running to help his mind deal with the effects of PTSD. Then he found that repeating the names of his lost friends helped him push through the pain.
“I run in honor of them,” Herndon said before Monday’s race. “They are not here anymore. I am here, and I am able. I am lucky to still have all my limbs. I can still be active. I find fuel in the simple idea that I can run. Some cannot.”
Video footage of his crawl across the finish line went viral overnight, drawing reactions nationwide.