The Marine Corps Marathon held on October 25, 2015, was a special race for these volunteers who strongly support the military and represent decades of military service. By partnering with The Summit Project and honoring and sustaining the memories of fallen Maine heroes we know that we can look in the eyes of their surviving families, and say, your loved one is not forgotten. We also know that we will personally benefit by learning and emulating the examples of these heroes who demonstrated such courage, bravery, strength and skill. Their stories live on, they continue to inspire, and through The Summit Project we know their sacrifice can inspire service, strengthen communities and change lives.
The team of runners include Major David J. Cote are Russ Shoberg, and retired Army Special Forces Captain Danny Stokes. These men are TSP volunteers. They carried 3 tribute stones.
Maj Samuel C. Leigh, USMC
Cpl. Mark R. Goyet, USMC
Maj. Jay T. Aubin, USMC
The Summit Project, a nationally recognized, Maine based, 501(c)3 service organization, is a living memorial that pays tribute to the fallen service members who have died in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. We have fundamentally changed the way we honor our post 9/11 fallen heroes from Maine. The mission of The Summit Project is to honor our state’s newest war casualties and the faithful spirit of all Mainers.
Our run at the 40th Marine Corps Marathon was a homecoming for two of the TSP teammates. Sensei (Russ Shoberg) was returning to revisit the course after an eight year hiatus, and Sandman (Dave Coté) was returning to his recently departed hometown and last posting as a Marine. We were joined by Ghost (Danny Stokes), a recently retired Army Captain and Green Beret.
We ran with Purpose, to share the stories of each hero, and to share the TSP mission with as many people as we could. We planned to do that by stopping at each mile point so that one of us could share the story of our hero with a member of the crowd watching the race go by. Ghost carried the stone of Major Samuel C. Leigh, Sandman carried the stone of Corporal Mark R. Goyet, and Sensei carried the stone of Major Jay T. Aubin for the day.
Through the day, three guys with different experiences and histories, as well as a sizeable age span bonded into a real team. We shared stories of the heroes we carried that day, and stories from our own lives. We shared food, salt, drinks, flag bearer duty, and a serious sense of camaraderie. The team never allowed itself to get down or negative – we just wouldn’t let each other. We were able to keep our energy high through team spirit, purpose, and doses of sarcastic humor. It also helped that our run was constantly showing us many more inspiring people running for many reasons, including amputee athletes, people fighting debilitating injuries or illness, and people running in memory of fallen heroes. Between miles 12 and 13, we ran the Blue Mile, which commemorates fallen heroes of all service branches and states. During this mile, we saw the markers for three of Maine’s heroes, SSG Brandon Silk , CPL Mark Goyet and PFC Andrew Small. It also helped to see Marine volunteers snap to attention and salute the flag as we trotted past.
All told, the event took the TSP team on a journey of just under seven hours. The goal was to finish proudly, with honor for our three heroes, not to go fast. As we climbed the final hill into the finish area at the Marine Corps Memorial statue, we finished as a team honoring our heroes. It was their day, and not about us. After some photos and a bit of sitting time, we held a small circle ceremony with our fallen heroes included. As always, it was serious and punctuated by periods of quiet as we talked about the bonds had been made, stories that were shared, and friendships that were strengthened by this day. In the end, we met Sandman’s vision of a small fire team getting to the finish line intact and together.
David J. Cote wrote —
Dear Martha –
I was humbled, honored, proud and privileged to carry Mark’s story and stone through the 40th Marine Corps Marathon this year. As I reflect on this entire event, I first think about how you retrieved the stone from Westbrook, Maine, and the weekend I met you. I think about your family farm that dates back to 1775, the year that the USMC was founded in Tun’s Tavern in Philadelphia, PA and the year prior to our nation’s founding. I think about how carefully you must have worked to unearth and retrieve this very stone. I was touching a memory that you also touched. I felt connected to you and to Mark in this way. Mark was going to help me get through 26.2 miles in our nation’s capitol, and smile the entire way through – the same smile that you wear on your face today.
Our nation’s capital! What a special, symbolic and meaningful place to honor Mark. So many memorials and monuments to commemorate important achievements in our country’s history, and I felt so special to have Mark’s living memorial as I achieved new milestones with every mile we completed. Thousands of Americans cheering us on, standing before these historical markers, traveling from afar to give us encouragement, excitement, strength and inspiration.
This trip to DC was also special for me, and particularly the MCM, because it was my first trip back to my former home after transitioning out of the USMC. I really enjoyed my tour of duty in DC, new friends, active lifestyle, learning new things and my personal and professional growth opportunities. I felt so honored to share this first visit back with Mark.
One of my first impressions during the MCM course was the soft rain prior to the start. As we prepared for the start, I heard the announcement for the National Anthem, and I proudly carried Mark and as I stood at the position of attention, I gazed ahead and saw a Marine in uniform saluting the flag. He was directly in my line of sight and I thought about our shared brotherhood as Marines, and the journey I was about to start. I stood just as proud, and choking back tears, I reciting our pledge and prepared for the journey ahead.
A moment later, a section V-22 Ospreys flew overhead, we took one picture as a team, we shed some layers and just like that, we were off. My next memory was having the honor to carry our American Flag over the Francis Scott Key Bridge into Georgetown. We had just finished the first segment of the race and, as we left Arlington, and entered DC for the first time, I was so proud to carry our nation’s colors into our nation’s capital. Another one of my favorite memories, and one that in the moment filled me with overwhelming emotion, was running past the Lincoln Memorial steps on Ohio drive and just as we passed, the Marine Band played the Marine Corps Hymn. These memories continued all through the race Martha. At every mile, at every monument, with the kindest and most supportive people you would ever meet.
We met many competitors with physical disabilities of their own – single and double amputees, and wheelchair racers, all of whom inspired me to keep pushing, to keep charging. I realized that they had struggles, perhaps wishing that they had more mobility, range of motion, and less discomfort with prosthetics. Then I thought about their strength and courage in the face of their disabilities and setbacks. I felt inspired and encouraged. If they could press on, so could I. I know something else that kept me going – my Red Sox hat because it made me think of Mark and his love for the Sox. I imagined his big grin and how he wouldn’t ever complain about a situation. He would smile and try to find the positives in any situation. I carried that spirit as we met spectators at every mile and shared the stories and stones of our heroes.
That is the lesson from Cpl Mark Goyet to me that day. Keep persevering, DO NOT give up, stay the course and keep a great attitude. Use our big smiles to help others smile and be confident in ourselves and in our future.
When we finished the race Martha, we each were awarded our finishers medal by a Marine First Lieutenant who was a student at The Basic School in Quantico. I thought about them, how I was in their shoes once, and how they are the future of the Marine Corps. I thought about how this new generation will learn to lead Marines like your son, and countless other sons and daughters of America. It is a tremendous responsibility, particularly when going into harm’s way.
I thank Mark for challenging me on this trek, for testing my focus and fortitude and I thank you Martha for your support to TSP and your unyielding backing for the work we do.
Mark will never be forgotten. I was so proud to carry his stone for over 26 miles in our nation’s capital and then bring it back to Maine – all with a smile on my face.
To Major Jay Aubin’s family – Nancy, Tom, Rhonda, Alicia, Nathan and Jay’s brothers – I thank you for the privilege of letting me carry Jay’s hero stone on this journey. I kept his stone and his reputation close from the time that I picked him up at MEPS on Thursday afternoon, until I returned him for safekeeping almost five days later. We traveled by Metro or on foot, around Washington, DC on Saturday from the marathon Expo to the World War II Memorial. We also went to both the Pentagon Memorial and Arlington Cemetery to visit the markers of four other heroes that are honored by The Summit Project.
I hope that through my efforts that weekend, and by sharing Jay’s story, you feel that more Americans know, appreciate and value his service, and his sacrifice. Just during the run, I got to share a bit of Jay’s story with MANY people, including several Marines, some EMTs, a Boy Scout troop, and two brand new 2nd LT Marines at the finish line. Please know that the people who heard his name and story all got to hold his stone for a few moments to share the weight. Both of the two 2LTs that I spoke with at the finish line saluted us (But I believe that it was really meant just for Jay).
I did my best to run and represent his legacy of being willing to work harder to meet the team’s objective. I tried to keep a smile on my face and represent his friendly spirit to everyone who saw us running. I gave my best to my teammates to help keep us all moving along the course that day so that we could share the memory of Jay, Mark and Sam with the people who we picked out to learn about them.
Going forward, as I remember Jay’s hard work ethic and his role as a night flight instructor, I resolve to work harder at being a better protector and mentor to my teams at work. In my job, I find myself mentoring people in situations where they have little to no experience (which probably seem like night flying to them). I will recall Jay’s life and his role as an instructor, carrying his friendly, protective spirit forward as my work teams learn to conquer the technical problems and unknowns that come our way.
With deepest respect – Russ Shoberg (Sensei)
October 22, 2015. Three TSP volunteers ran the 40th annual Marine Corps Marathon carrying 3 Memorial Stones representing Active Duty Marines who have died since September 11, 2001. Major Cote said, “We want to carry their stone not just for the trek, but to carry their story for a lifetime so our heroes are not forgotten.”