Bravery of soldiers who ran the grueling race wearing 40lb BACKPACKS in honor of fallen comrades... then found the strength to tear down barricades and free victims
A group of soldiers competing in the grueling Boston Marathon wearing 40lb backpacks in honor of fallen comrades managed to find the strength to tear down barricades and free trapped victims.
Immediately after the terrifying explosions that killed three people and injured 183 Monday, photos showed soldiers dressed in fatigues running toward the site of the attack.
Army Sgt. Bernard Madore and 1st Lt. Steve Fiola say they never expected to have to mobilize in response to an attack in their hometown but were ready to answer the call of duty.
Since the soldiers were fully dressed in their fatigues, some assumed they had been stationed along the corridor of the marathon for security.
But the quick thinking active duty soldiers were actually participating in the marathon with 15 members from the Massachusetts National Guard, in honor of their friends who lost their lives fighting for their country.
In an effort known as Tough Ruck, soldiers dress in full fatigues and carry their rucksacks filled with clothes and supplies, that can weigh as much as 45 lbs for the 8 hour walk.
Bernard Madore, who has been deployed twice to Iraq, said the scene in Boston 'was by far one of the most horrific scenes.'
'I never thought I'd see something like that on our own grounds,' Sgt. Madore told USA Today.
Lt. Fiola, who organized the fundraising effort, explained how the men instinctively raced toward the epicenter of the terror attack to offer assistance.
'We just tore that [fence] down and just allowed us to get in there and pull what was remaining ... all the stuff that was on these people, just try to clean it the best we could,' he said.
Staff Sgt. Mark Welch was also among the group competing in the event.
Welch, who has also been deployed to Iraq, said 'I've obviously seen stuff like this before, but to have it happen on our own turf, it's a little different. Limbs gone. Fingers away from the bodies.'
'It's drilled into us what we need to do. We run towards it, not away from it.'
They began their journey at 5:00am in Hopkinton, Massachusetts at the start line of the Boston Marathon.
Participants, who are referred to as Ruckers, honor a lost soldier by affixing a yellow ribbon that bears the name of a veteran who lost their life in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
The movement is for active military personnel and raises money for Military Friends Foundation in support of Families of the Fallen.
The exhausted pair was just nearing the end of their journey when the explosions occurred.
Carlos Arredondo was in the crowd cheering on the Ruckers as he supported the effort in honor of his son Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, who died in Iraq in 2004.
The father's other son, Brian, suffered from depression in the wake of his brother's death and committed suicide in 2011.
Mr Arredondo, wearing a cowboy hat and a gray Tough Ruck t-shirt, was among the heroes who also rushed toward the blast site to assist the victims.
Photos showed him, with bloodied hands, holding fast to a victim who lost both of his legs in the blast.
'I kept talking to him. I kept saying,"Stay with me, stay with me,"' he told the Portland Press Herald.
And the spirit of the Ruck challenge wasn't just limited to Boston.
Two Army soldiers, who are Massachusetts natives currently stationed in Afghanistan, participated in the run even during their deployment.
CPL Daniel Barry and SPC Cody Montelo pledged to walk the 26.2 miles in memory of their fallen comrades in Afghanistan.
They were 19 miles into their ruck when they learned of the Boston tragedy and pressed on in solidarity with the victims of the attack.
'[We've] never Rucked harder and faster in their lives,' they said about completing the remaining miles with the knowledge of the terror that had been unleashed in their hometown.