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Archive for the ‘Marine Corps Marathon’ Category

Why wait until next week to register for the Marine Corps Marathon when you can run for a cause with Team Operation Homefront! For the past several years, we’ve run in honor of those closest to our hearts: our heroes who show us what determination and courage really means, and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Meet our 2013 Team Operation Homefront Honorees:

gallegosTeamOHThe Gallegos Family: Sebastian and Tracie

When Marine Corps Cpl. Sebastian Gallegos arrived in Afghanistan the fighting began almost as soon as he arrived.

His unit replaced a group of British commandos who had just headed home. There was no time to adjust. The Marines were met with constant firefights. Continuous movement. Daily war.

Sebastian, a rifle team leader, was heading back to the patrol base with his team on Oct. 16, 2010. His squad leader stepped on an IED. The blast tore into Sebastian’s body and tossed him into a canal. His squad leader died in the helicopter on the way to the hospital. Sebastian’s right arm was amputated in the field hospital. Doctors left the shrapnel that peppered his back.

Once in the U.S., Sebastian’s wife, Tracie, came to San Antonio to be by his side. After three weeks as an in-patient, he was able to live with her in the nearby guest house. The one room accommodations were stressful for the couple and their dog.

Operation Homefront gave the young family a place to plan for the future. Now Sebastian and Tracie live at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio. Sebastian said the spacious apartment, “feels like home.” The accommodations have also allowed the couple to save for a home of their own.

“We are saving so much money here,” he said.

Sebastian, now 23, is in the process of applying to college and plans to study political science.

CruzTeamOH

The Cruz Family: Carlos, Patricia, Enrique and Yazmine

Marine Sgt. Carlos Cruz has spent a combined 23 months in Iraq over three tours.

During each tour, the infantry Marine suffered TBI after IED blasts knocked him aside and left him unconscious.

Three deployments. Three blasts. Three bruises on his brain.

On his last trip to the battlefield, the 7-ton truck he was riding in veered off the road and rolled over. Carlos was ejected from the vehicle and knocked out. He woke up nearly an hour later at an Air Force base.

When he hit the ground, his neck and spine took the brunt of the impact.

Today, Carlos suffers chronic, debilitating pain because of that day. Doctors will not operate for fear of doing more damage. He also suffers from severe arthritis in his hands. If he tries to write for more
than 15 minutes, his hands swell. He cannot type or drive for longer than a few minutes.

Carlos was moved to the wounded warrior battalion where he worried every day about how he would support his family once he was medically retired. His wife, Patricia, was laid off soon after.

Operation Homefront gave them a safe place to live to make a plan for the future. Carlos is now medically retired and awaiting his final VA rating. He said without Operation Homefront’s help, the family, Carlos said, may have been
homeless.

“If we weren’t at the village, it wouldn’t be good at all,” Carlos said. “This is a blessing and then some.”

 

Team Operation Homefront (TOH) is an endurance training program that provides athletes with an opportunity to fundraise for Operation Homefront while training for an endurance event either on their own or in a team environment. Funds raised go to support Operation Homefront Villages.

Also visit Team Operation Homefront on Facebook and on Twitter @RunTeamOH

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Part I: Behind the bandages  
By Allison Perkins

Shortly after doctors removed shrapnel fragments from his left eye, Army Capt. Ivan Castro demanded to know when they were going to remove the bandage. The Army Special Forces soldier was anxious to see his wife again after weeks of living in complete darkness.

Team Operation Homefront at the 2011 MCM. Cpt Casto on the left, rockin' some cool shades.

Shrapnel from enemy mortar rounds in Iraq had already claimed the vision in his right eye. He was ready to move on with his recovery and return to his family and his unit.

Ivan, however, didn’t know the bandages were already gone, as was his sight.

When the doctor explained how extensive the damage was, Ivan asked for a second opinion, and then a third, at another hospital.

That last medical appointment was nearly identical to the first. The doctor shined a light into the soldier’s eyes and delivered the same prognosis: he was blind. His eye could not be fixed.

Only then did Ivan accept the reality of a lifetime of darkness.

“That was it. The doctor walked out of the room,” he said. “I heard my wife cry for the first time.”

Ivan said in that moment, he became aware of the extent of his other injuries as well.

The blast from the mortar round had torn through his body. His left arm and shoulder were destroyed. His nose was broken, his right cheek bone shattered. His right index finger was blown off in the blast and the artery in his neck was damaged. His lungs collapsed. Much of his body was peppered with shards of shrapnel.

Over the coming months and years, Ivan would endure 40 surgeries to repair the damage and hundreds of hours of physical therapy. It would have been easy to succumb to the pain. It would have been easy to quit.

Ivan, did not.

“I had to decide that I was not going to let this take me down,” he said.

“I could still speak and my hearing was good. I still had my mental faculties,” he said. “When you walk into a military hospital, you realize how fortunate you are. You see the other injuries and you tend to stop and think, ‘Wow, I was really fortunate’.”

One day during treatment, he overheard the staff discussing the upcoming Army Ten-Miler and Marine Corps Marathon. That day, Ivan decided he would recover and he would train to run both.

He did. And then he kept on running.

This weekend, five years after an enemy mortar nearly ended his life, he showed others how to live theirs to the fullest.

Ivan ran the Marine Corps Marathon, again, as part of the Operation Homefront team. Since his recovery, he has kept his promise to overcome his injuries. In the past four years, he has run 19 marathons, 10 half marathons, five Army Ten Milers, two 50-mile races, three triathlons and climbed a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado.

“It’s painful, it’s enjoyable,” he said. “What gets me through is not competing. I enjoy challenging myself. I love to appreciate life and every second of it, I try to enjoy.”

Join us next week for Part II, Battle wounds: black, white and gray

Connect with Team Operation Homefront on Facebook, and be sure to check out pictures from the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon on our Flickr page.

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