LAS VEGAS --
The Marine Corps is full of tradition, and one that ranks above most is honoring those who have fallen.
On April 5, 2014, seven Marines gathered in Las Vegas to continue this tradition and pay tribute to three brothers-in-arms whose lives were tragically cut short in a car accident in February 2012.
In the crowd of thousands of participants, the team of Marines, named the Fire Breathing Rubber Ducks, stood wearing black shirts with the names of the three Marines and the words,
“Remembering those who gave all.”
As they waited for their start time, many racers approached them and asked about their shirts.
After hearing about the commitment to honor these Marines, racers walked away inspired to finish strong.
“This is our way of keeping their memory alive,” said Spencer Garvin, a Marine with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “The other racers read the shirts and came up to us and said, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and they asked us to share the story of these Marines. It’s a great way to keep their memories alive.”
It all started with Garvin gathering friends for a Spartan Race. It quickly turned into a great opportunity to pay tribute though.
“One of the Marines running the race was especially close to them,” Garvin said. “He asked me if he could add their names on the back of his shirt.”
Garvin suggested all of them add the names to the shirts because of their profession and dedication to the Marine brotherhood.
“I didn’t know them personally, but that didn’t matter,” said Richard Hernandez, a Marine with the 15th MEU. “It’s not about whether you know them. It’s the fact that they’re Marines, and we all go through so much of the same experiences. When someone is taken from us we all feel it and honor them.”
Throughout the obstacle-riddled race, the Marines helped each other stay focused and accomplish their goal.
Their demonstration of motivation and camaraderie inspired other racers to give it their all.
“I was physically drained when I reached that last obstacle,” Kelly Mangrum, a racer from Los Angeles, Calif., said. “That’s when [The Fire Breathing Rubber Ducks] came running by and just destroyed that obstacle.”
Mangrum, who had met the Marines prior to the race, was reminded of their story and found the energy to keep going.
“Something just hit me, and I told myself that I would finish strong with them,” Mangrum said.
After receiving her medal, Mangrum approached the group of Marines who were covered from head to toe in mud and grit.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” Mangrum said to the Marines as she was still catching her breath. “Your story inspired me to dig deep and find that energy to finish.”
Before parting ways, the group of seven Marines gathered and shared a moment of silence in respect for their brothers.
“This has been a great experience for everyone,” Garvin said.
“There’s no better way than to honor a Marine than going out with fellow Marines, getting some [physical training] and inspiring others with their story.”