TMP Runners Run in Honor of Nine Fallen Service Members

In addition to fundraising and spreading awareness of Marine Parents, our 2017 Team Marine Parents runners ran the Marine Corps Marathon in honor of nine fallen service members. Each runner wore a ribbon with a fallen hero's name and photo on it and attached it to their bibs with a battle cross lapel pin. Thank you, TMP runners, for honoring Gold Star family members.

To read the full recap of the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon, click here.

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I had caught a cold when I landed in DC on Saturday and was really sick Sunday. I knew I had to run for Mike when I woke up that morning. I got up, medicated and set my mind to finish. When I was between mile 20-21 on the longest mile of my life, I felt like he was there cheering me on and telling me I was going to finish. He is an angel for sure. Shannon Perez, 2017 Runner

Cpl Todd Hawks USMC

Todd was a veteran of the Iraq War, serving two tours of duty with the Marine Corps 1st LAR BN, at Camp Pendleton, San Diego, California. Todd was an avid Notre Dame and New England Patriots fan and especially enjoyed watching college football. He loved spending time with his many nieces and nephews, his family, and fiancee. Todd lost his battle with PTS on April 27, 2013, he was 27 years old.

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PFC Michael Giannattasio USMC

Michael was the fourth of eight children born to Frank and Jane Giannatasio. He graduated high school in 2014 as an All-State Rugby player, Cross Country runner, and was awarded the "Devotion to Duty" award. Michael attended Macomb Community College before joining the Marine Corps in January 2017. He graduated basic training in April 2017 and earned the company's highest physical fitness and combat fitness scores with a score of 600 out of 600 points. Michael was training with the Reconnaissance Training Company, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA. Michael is greatly missed by his family and friends.

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SrA Cody Hendrickson Air Force

Senior Airman Cody Alan Hendrickson, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron, United States Air Force was a 2005 graduate of Ste. Genevieve High School. He entered the Air Force on May 30, 2006 and attended Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX and Technical School at Sheppard AFB, TX where he trained as an Aircraft Fuel Systems Specialist. His assignments included Mountain Home AFB, ID, Kunsan AB, South Korea, Nellis AFB, NV, Langley AFB, VA, Anderson AFB, Guam and Seymour Johnson AFB, NC. SrA Hendrickson's awards include the Air Force Achievement Medal and Airman of the Quarter. He loved the Air Force, Missouri, hunting and fishing.

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2nd LT Richard P. Reynolds Jr. USMC

His long journey to Vietnam nearly over, Kevin Reynolds cupped his hands and scooped sand from a berm near where his 23-year-old brother was killed during the war. Reynolds, 67, had traveled to the village last month, hoping to find the exact spot where Marine 2nd Lt. Richard Reynolds Jr. had died in 1968 and also to bring a small measure of closure to a long and painful family history.Saving the sand in a jar marked the culmination of a journey that had taken the East Hampton retired New York City police officer more than 8,000 miles to complete.

Rudy Molina, a Vietnam veteran and a friend of Richard Reynolds who made the trip, said, "He was just like in a trance or something, in deep thought." "We both were quiet," said Molina, 69, of Coulterville, California. "It was emotional for me, too. It was almost 50 years since this happened, and to be walking in the same spot where his brother was killed and my friend was killed, it was eerie feeling."

Reynolds, who said he had pushed away memories of his brother's death in the decades since it happened, joined a two-week tour of Vietnam last month organized by two veterans, hoping to find the place north of Hue in central Vietnam where his brother died in an ambush.

Richie Reynolds died Jan. 20, 1968, in a hail of machine-gun fire during an intense firefight near the Cua Viet River. The battle was a few dozen miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. Using battle maps and descriptions of the fighting, Reynolds came to a spot near a cemetery from which it is believed the ambush had been sprung.

"I was thinking of my brother and the 12 other souls who died with him," Reynolds recalled after he returned home of the moment when he scooped earth from where his brother, whom the family called Richie, fell. "I could run off all 13 names in my head."

Richie Reynolds had been commanding the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 1st AmTrac Battalion, 3rd Marine Division that day. Another group of GIs had been pinned down by North Vietnamese troops, and Reynolds had rallied his men to come to their defense.

Kevin Reynolds, who was then 18, learned of his brother's death when a pair of U.S. Marines came to the home where they then lived in upper Manhattan. Kevin Reynolds said his father, Richard Sr., and his mother, Rita, rarely spoke of their son's death. But Reynolds became curious about the details of his brother's death about three years ago, after reading an account of the fatal firefight that he felt unfairly depicted his brother as having miscalculated against a numerically stronger enemy. Reynolds tracked down members of his brother's platoon, who shared bits of information about his brother's final battle.

Not long after, Reynolds decided to join the growing number of Americans who are visiting places in Vietnam that remain emotionally significant to them 44 years after U.S. combat troops left the country. In all, 58,220 Americans died in the war, according to the National Archives. More than 3 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians also perished.

On March 5, Kevin Reynolds left on a war-related tour of Vietnam arranged by Vietnam Battlefield Tours, a Texas-based nonprofit run by five Vietnam veterans. The group has hosted about 1,500 visitors per year since 2005. His itinerary included visits to some of the most iconic locations of the war, including the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison and Khe Sanh.

During his trip, Reynolds brought clothing and toys to an orphanage in Da Nang, a city that American troops had used as a giant military base, and whose surrounding area had been devastated by the fighting. He considered it a peace gesture on behalf of his brother.

Finding closure, Kevin Reynolds said, might never be fully possible. But finding the spot where his brother perished brought a connection that had eluded him for the decades since his passing, Reynolds said. In the emotional moment when he reached the spot where his brother died, Reynolds scooped up the sand, but forgot to bury a scarf he had given his mother before she died in 1993. "I was finally in an area that had been crisscrossed several times by my brother and his men, and that was satisfying," Reynolds said of his trip. "This was the finish line for me."

By Martin C. Evans

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LCpl Justin Ellsworth USMC

Justin's story is similar to many young Marines. He was an adventurous teenager who enlisted after graduating high school in 2003. A year later he was on the ground in Iraq as a combat engineer, arriving in Fallujah on September 11, 2004. He loved the Marine Corp. and the opportunity to serve his country. I am proud of Justin's selfless actions and I want you to know about his heroic sacrifice, but I also want you to know about the person he was. I want you to know that how Justin lived was just as important as how he died. You need to know that he was a fun-loving cowboy type who could usually be seen wearing a hat, boots and a smile. That he wore number five at Mount Pleasant High School where he played hockey and football. That he was the peacemaker within his circle of friends. That he loved spending time with his family and riding horses. That his friends called him a Tweeder and his little sister Jessica adored him. I want you to know that he believed in what he was doing and was proud to serve his country. It isn't until you know the details about Justin's life that you know just how much he sacrificed, and just how much my family lost. Justin lived each moment to the fullest. He always had a smile on his face and was usually the first to grab someone in a bear hug, and hold them until you were both filled with laughter. Justin was my only son, my baby boy, my camping buddy; we camped with him since he was a baby. Sometimes it seemed we spent the summers in tents. We loved to sit on the beach and watch the sunsets over Grand Traverse Bay and watch the stars slowly appear in the night sky. We would then retreat to a roaring campfire to warm us from the night. We laughed together; we cried together, I miss him so much it hurts. On Nov. 13, 2004 Justin was serving as a demolitions expert on a reconnaissance mission when his metal detector alerted him to a potential improvised explosive device along the road. Determined to neutralize the threat, he selflessly moved forward and uncovered a homemade explosive only to discover that it was remotely controlled by an insurgent waiting nearby. With only seconds to act, he warned his fellow Marines of the danger. Justin was directly over the device when it detonated and his body absorbed most of the blast. Justin died that day, but as a direct result of his actions, 11 of the Marines with him were spared. Just like hundreds of thousands of other men and women who have given their lives in defense of freedom during our country's history, Justin is an American hero. But for me... he was my son.

John Ellsworth, Father

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PFC Jason Poindexter USMC

Jason Poindexter had trouble in boot camp because of his happy-go-lucky, impish nature and constant smile. "He got in trouble a lot," said his mother, Sharon Westbrook. He was born with this smile and he had a real hard time controlling it. Poindexter, 20, of San Angelo, Texas, was killed Sept. 12 in hostile action in Iraq, less than a week after he arrived. He was based at Camp Pendleton. Poindexter played football and ran track in high school before graduating in 2002. Westbrook said she tried to talk him out of joining the Marines, but he made up his mind to do it. He was home in July for two weeks leave. I wonder now did I spend enough time with him? Westbrook said. Did I tell him I loved him enough? Westbrook said her son reassured her before going to Iraq. He said for me not to worry, that he was just going over there to do a job and he'd be back in a few months, Westbrook said. It was like he was going across town. Poindexter is also survived by his father, Sam Poindexter.

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Tech Sgt Anthony Campbell Jr. Air Force

TSgt Anthony Campbell, Jr., was born in Florence, Kentucky and joined the Air Force in 1992 as a Fuels technician and completed his active duty commitment in September 1996. He joined the Ohio Air National Guard in 2004 and graduated from NAVSCOLEOD in 2005. On June 22, 2008, he joined the Cincinnati Police Department and on July 6, 2009, he served in the Air Force Reserves as a technical sergeant and EOD team leader with the 932nd Civil Engineer Unit. He was deployed as EOD Team Leader with the 755th Bravo EOD Flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. "Son, Friend, Father, Husband,.. our Family HERO"

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LCpl Taylor Prazynski USMC

Taylor B. Prazynski was born on Veterans Day in 1984 at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the son of a staff sergeant, and lived his first four years on bases in Utah and Illinois. His father became a civilian in early 1989 - but not Taylor. The family moved to Fairfield, where Taylor adopted The Army Goods Store on Dixie Highway as his favorite hangout. Since 1990 the store has hung a picture of 6-year old Taylor, in a beret and camouflage jumpsuit, on a wall behind the counter. The store hung up a second photo of Taylor late last week. In this picture he's decked out in more military gear: the real kind. This photo was taken before Lcpl. Taylor B. Prazynski left in January for Iraq, where he was killed Monday, May 9 while fighting alongside his U.S. Marine corps battalion. He was 20. "Taylor always said he was where he was supposed to be," said his father, John Prazynski, "doing what he was supposed to be doing." Taylor didn't know he'd die a Marine. He didn't even know he'd live to be a Marine. His overt infatuation with the military came and went over the years, his parents say, but by his senior year at Fairfield High he'd decided to enlist. He and two of his best friends, Troy Riggs and Sean Barr, enlisted together. Taylor's mother was the last to know. "He worked with me at the Best Western in Springdale, and for a week everyone there knew he'd signed up except for me," said Claudia Focke-Curati. "He didn't want to upset me, but I wasn't surprised. I knew he was heading that way." After going through boot camp together in Parris Island, S.C., Taylor and Riggs were baptized at Vineyard Community Church in Springdale. That brings great comfort to his family. "We know Taylor's in heaven," John Prazynski said. Following a peace-keeping stint in Haiti, Taylor and his battalion were deployed from Camp Lejeune, N.C. to Iraq in January. They were sent to Fallujah, the heart of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While overseas, Taylor kept in touch with his family. "He called every week," said Taylor's stepmother, Carol Prazynski. "We laughed that we heard from Taylor more when he was (in Iraq) than when he was in Camp Lejeune - and he had a cell phone at Camp Lejeune." During a call in April, John Prazynski could tell his son was growing up. Taylor started talking about his plans for the future, including his desire to buy a truck, find an apartment and start college. "He wanted to be a teacher," John Prazynski said. Taylor called home for the last time on Friday, May 6. He told everyone not to be shocked if they didn't hear from him for a while. His battalion was about to enter a combat zone. He couldn't say much more. Until recently, Focke-Curati had saved most of her son's phone messages from Iraq. Shortly before his death she cleaned out her voice mail, but she saved the message he left on Valentine's Day. "Hey, Mom. I'm doing good. . .calling before I go back to the room. . .I miss you. . .love you. .." "I've listened to that one a good bit this week," said Focke-Curati. "Maybe 20 or 30 times."

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Spc. Trenton H. Weston Army

We are so honored that you would choose to run this marathon in honor of Trent. My husband ran once in a marathon so we realize what a difficult task it is to train for and complete. I know you have a few details of Trent's life from his obituary, but summing up a lifetime in a few sentences seems incomplete, even if that lifetime is only such a short 22 years. Trent was our third child of four children and had a great sense of humor. He said and did funny things that would make us laugh. He had a very sensitive side also, often concerned about others or noticing when someone was down or needing help. He was in the army for almost 3 years, serving at Fort Bragg where he died. My husband wrote a song for our son that can be found on iTunes called "I'll Always Love You My Son" by Doug Weston. The loss has left a huge hole in our family. Moving from the pain and reality of his death to focusing on his life brings us healing. Thank you for helping to keep his memory alive.

Julie Weston, Mother

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