Veterans are always inspiring. They are our modern-day heroes and warriors. Wounded veterans who overcome their physical and mental injuries show the true potential of the human spirit and are examples of the fact that anything is achievable with enough dedication and perseverance. At the 2017 Boston Marathon, two wounded veterans caught the eyes of the nation — along with everyone in Boston cheering them on at the time — with truly inspirational runs to the finish line.
Marine Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez and Army Staff Sgt. Earl Granville were both cheered on throughout the entire 26-mile Boston Marathon, and for good reason. Both men lost their left legs to explosions while serving in Afghanistan and ran the Boston Marathon with prosthetic legs while carrying the American flag. Onlookers clapped and cheered as they passed, and fellow marathon runners hugged and thanked them during the race.
Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez, who served in the United States Marine Corps, lost his leg in Afghanistan in 2011 when an IED exploded. During his time in the hospital recovering, his unit sent him an American flag. It was that flag which he proudly carried with him during the Boston Marathon. The Marine ran the marathon to raise funds for the Semper Fi Fund, an organization which provides “immediate assistance and lifetime support for wounded, critically ill, and injured service members and their families.”
Sanchez told the Boston Herald, “I wanted to not only recognize veterans but anyone that thinks they are not able to do something. I couldn’t stand for 3 seconds or walk for more than 2 feet. And I fought for four or five years to be able to walk farther, to lift my body up, and I kept on pushing it… so I wanted to push it further by doing the marathon.”
Army Staff Sgt. Earl Granville ran the Boston Marathon as well, also with a prosthetic left leg. Granville lost his leg to an explosion in Afghanistan in 2008. A nine-year veteran of the Pennsylvania National Guard, the Staff Sergeant wasn’t going to let something like that slow him down. He has become an avid marathoner, completing marathons in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and New York. In the past, Granville has used a hand bike in marathons, but for this Boston Marathon, he decided to skip the bike and run it.
Carrying an American flag over his shoulder throughout the race, Granville was cheered on throughout by onlookers and fellow runners. At mile 16, Granville posted a live stream video on Facebook. In an amazing display of true military humility, Granville says in the video, “I don’t know what they’re inspired about. I’m walking.”
If his completing the Boston Marathon wasn’t enough on its own, the way Granville finished has instantaneously become an iconic image of perseverance and heroism found in military personnel. Boston Marathon runners who are disabled are given a guide to assist them throughout the marathon if they need it. Just before he completed the marathon, Granville — with the American flag still over one shoulder — picked up his guide and carried her across the finish line.
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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.