Achilles Freedom Team at the Boston Marathon
Monday, April 17, marked the annual Boston Marathon, which saw runners from all over the world competing in the famous 26.2 mile race that traverses Boston’s storied landscape. But this year’s event was extra special, as Carrington Aviation transported Veterans who were competing in the race with the Achilles Freedom Team, including one of our CCF Ambassadors, Master Sgt. John Masson.
Achilles International is an organization dedicated to enabling people with disabilities to participate in mainstream running events, and includes the Achilles Freedom Team, which serves wounded military personnel and Veterans. This was Team Achilles’ ninth year in partnering with the Veterans Airlift Command to help transport Veterans to the Boston Marathon, and eight of those years included Carrington’s involvement.
“The Carrington crew are some of the most generous and warm people that we have ever come across,” says Janet Patton, Director of the Achilles Freedom Team. “They are always so easy to work with, and when I see them on that tarmac, it is like seeing family. I know that they take such good care of the heroes we serve, and we could not be more grateful!”
In total, Team Achilles hosted 38 athletes, 27 of whom were wounded, ill and injured Veterans. Carrington helped transport four passengers to and from the marathon, including combat-wounded Veteran Master Sgt. John Masson, who is a triple amputee. His daughter was also in attendance. They were joined by Staff Sgt. Adam Popp, a single, above-the-knee amputee, and Boston bombing survivor Patrick Downes, a single, below-the-knee amputee. Patrick’s wife was also wounded in the Boston attack, and the two have special permission to rehab at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where they’ve become strong advocates for Team Achilles.
Much like CCF, the Achilles Freedom Team helps Veterans transition into civilian life, offering such activities as participating in mainstream marathons to help them become more active while they rehabilitate from combat. To date, more than 1,000 wounded Veterans have participated in the Achilles Freedom Team rehabilitation program since its creation in 2004. Team Achilles has worked closely with military hospitals – and physical and occupational therapists, particularly at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – to help Veterans prepare for competition and complete the race. With a goal to create an environment for sharing achievement goals, Team Achilles also motivates Veterans while improving their health and fitness, raising their confidence and nurturing their life aspirations. Team Achilles participates in nine mainstream marathons per year, including New York, Los Angeles and Disney World.
In Boston, our Carrington-transported Vets had an amazing time – and made an exceptional showing at the event. Master Sgt. Masson had a personal best time of one hour and 24 minutes for his race in the Handcycle Division. “Absolutely amazing!” Patton says. “John is kind, compassionate and honorable. He makes others better just by being around him.”
Staff Sgt. Popp ran the marathon using a running prosthesis. Janet says, “He is also a stellar athlete and person, and ran a four-hour and 10-minute marathon.” Patrick also participated in the Handcycle Division, and had an equally great race. “He crossed the finish line with a fellow Freedom Team athlete who is a triple amputee. It was a beautiful moment,” shares Janet.
Of course, Carrington added some extra-special motivation. A Carrington crew member, Vicky, made the athletes a cookie cake to wish them luck during the race.
We’re so proud to have been a part of such a special day, and to partner with Team Achilles. Congratulations again to Master Sgt. John Masson and everyone who participated in this year’s Boston Marathon. We can’t wait for next year!