HOPKINTON, Mass., April 21, 2009 - Almost 400 Massachusetts National Guardsmen were called up to support Monday's 113th running of the Boston Marathon.
Guardsmen from the 126th Combat Support Battalion were positioned at the starting line to assist the Hopkinton Police in keeping the race route clear for more than 26,000 runners.
The Boston Marathon is a public event supported by multiple agencies in the commonwealth. Every year, spectators line the 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Boston. The National Guard helps local police along the marathon route to safeguard spectators and maintain public order.
When the race began, the street was packed tight with runners, who touched the outstretched hands of screaming spectators as they ran by.
"I have done this many times before with the military police, and I hope that I will be able to do it again," said Sgt. 1st Class Leonard A. Hester of Company A, 126th Combat Support Battalion. "It's nice to get out here and see the crowd having fun."
Guardsmen don't often experience interacting with the public while in uniform, and they see events like the marathon as a good opportunity to interact. "The spectators were cheering for us as we marched down the route to get into position before the race started," said Sgt. Stephen R. Mastronardi, an intelligence analyst with the Headquarters Company, 126th Combat Support Battalion.
1st Lt. Justin P. Culverwell, commander of the battalion's Company B, said the operation was a success. "The Soldiers here definitely made a positive impact on the start of the race and had a good time talking with spectators."
The runners got off to a good start in Hopkinton, but as quickly as the last group of racers could run by, the spectacle of the race ended. The Guardsmen marched back to their busses and returned to their armories for lunch and to discuss their plans for next year.
(Sgt. James Lally serves with the Massachusetts National Guard.)