A Marine’s miles: from hurt to healing
Some people pray on their knees. It’s part of God’s work.
Marine veteran Micah Herndon, who was deployed to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009, finished the 2019 Boston Marathon on his hands and knees. I think this is also a part of God’s work. The 31-year-old crawled across the finish line on Monday, April 15th, not for himself but in memory of three friends who lost their lives on the battlefront.
Suffering from PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Herndon uses running as a way to integrate himself back to civilian life. He told ABC news that, “Running, for me, is therapy… One way of coping with [my friends’ losses and the battle scars] is running…because they’re not here anymore and they can’t run anymore. Just to honor their names and their family that’s still here.”
“Survivor’s guilt, it’s real,” Herndon told Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post. “I definitely have it because I was the lead machine-gunner on that convoy and I didn’t see the bomb that was buried.” The bomb killed his three friends. “I live with that every day.”
This column is called “Keeping The Pace” and to miss writing about Herndon would be a great mistake. The runner tried to keep the pace but the humidity of the day eventually rendered his legs useless during a portion of the marathon called Heartbreak Hill.
We may not all be marathon runners, but each of us has experienced heartbreak. Metaphorically, we’ve hit our knees and have had to crawl, not run.
To finish the final four miles, Herndon repeated the names of his buddies over and over. Like this gentle-speaking man, we can turn hurt to healing, move past our ourselves, and, with heart, kindness, and consideration, pay tribute to lost friends and family members by literally putting one foot in front of the other, or by getting down on our hands and knees.
I want to meet Herndon because I want to hear firsthand how he has found his strength through his struggles. In what I have read and heard, he did not mention God or faith. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t use these words.
It doesn’t mean he uses the words God or faith, either. But just because something isn’t named does not mean it isn’t there. I have not walked a mile in his combat boots, but know his running shoes mean more than perhaps his words can say.
Herndon runs for two reasons: therapy and remembrance. Three people died in his world on his watch.
I think of Jesus’s death and what I can do to honor Him on my watch. Herndon’s strength and sensitivity (which are characteristics Jesus also had), inspire me. I hope this man with memories inspires you to run, walk, and even crawl out of remembrance for the One you love.
The Apostle Paul knew about mileage and spending time on his hands and knees in pain. He writes about pressing toward the goal in Philippians 3:12. “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
Like Herndon, I encourage you to press on.
This picture shows Herndon’s running shoes. The tags hold the names of his three friends, Marines Matthew Ballard and Mark Juarez, and British journalist Rupert Hamer.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on April 24, 2019.
And yes, I would like to meet Micah, listen to how he is, and encourage him for who he is.