Wounded vets run, walk, roll in NYC
By Cpl. Jess Levens
| | July 01, 2005
NEW YORK CITY --
Marines, spouses and sailors from Medical Holding Platoon, Naval Medical Center San Diego, recently took a free four-day trip to New York City to participate in the Achilles Track Club's Hope and Possibilities Run/Walk and to take in the city.
The Marines flew from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on a C-130, and touched down at Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y., last Friday.
New York City firefighters met the Marines at the landing strip and served as their weekend transportation. With the sirens of police escorts blaring, the wounded vets arrived in Manhattan and were greeted at the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines' and Airmen's Club by firefighters, police officers, media and passersby. The entire block was barricaded off to prevent traffic. In the middle of the street, in the midst of all the commotion, Lance Cpl. Kelly Orman took a knee and asked his girlfriend, Rachael Cole to be his wife. She said yes, and two days later, firefighters handed Orman a can of white spray paint to mark his romantic spot. Orman painted two white hearts in the middle of the street.
The Marines met at Central Park early Saturday morning, joined by wounded service members from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Md., for an introduction to the 5-mile run, to stretch out. Some selected hand-cranked wheelchairs.
After the Central Park meeting, the firefighters took the Marines on an exclusive Ground Zero tour, where the 9/11 tragedies happened in 2001. The Marines spent the rest of the day on a double-decker bus tour of the city and then attended an appreciation dinner back at the hotel.
Sunday morning, the Marines rolled out of bed for the big race. Firefighters drove them to Central Park. The race was open to all, and many of the runners were ambulatory impaired or visually impaired. Marines who couldn't walk or run used racing wheelchairs.
Cpl. Nick Beberniss, whose legs were badly wounded in Iraq, rode an adult tricycle. After he finished, he saw his wife Leslie running to the finish line. He made his way back onto the road and ran with her the rest of the way. Doctors once told him he would never walk again.
"I think it really motivated my wife," said Beberniss. "Since my injury, she hasn't seen me do anything like that."
Leslie crossed the finish line almost in tears.
"I needed (to see him do that)," she said. "That was the most positive thing I've seen physically from him. Seeing him run was overwhelming - I didn't know whether to smile or cry. I think I did both."
As the racers piled in, they moved to a VIP tent for food and drinks. The local USO provided some singers who entertained the service members with patriotic medleys while the racers recovered.
After a quick shower, the vets went aboard the USS Intrepid for a luncheon and awards ceremony from the Achilles Track Club. One dock space over, the Marines boarded a privately owned schooner for a water tour of New York City.
The trip ended with a visit to the Staten Island Marine Corps League to share drinks and stories with the local old-timers.
Early the next morning, the crew left the hotel and boarded the C-130 for the flight back to San Diego.