Team Achilles at the Boston Marathon

April 22, 2018

Despite near-freezing temps and soaking rain on race day, tens of thousands of athletes and fans jammed the 26.2-mile course of the grueling Boston Marathon on April 16. Amid such challenging conditions, the 122nd edition of the historic race was especially inspiring.

Carrington Aviation worked with the Veteran’s Airlift Command (VAC) to transport part of the 2018 Team Achilles to the race, including returning marathoner and triple amputee U.S. Army Master Sgt. John Masson, also our very own CCF Ambassador. With him on the marathon course were U.S. Army Sgt. Elbert “Teddy” Simmons, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Jeremy Bruns, and active duty U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Jarrid “Jay” Collins; and Don Balcom, formerly a Nuclear Propulsion Officer in the U.S. Navy.

John finished ninth in the cycling group this year, and says training and competing in the marathon took “extreme dedication.”

“Doing so with a disability goes beyond those measures,” says John. “Hours, days, weeks, and months of training are required once the decision is made to challenge oneself. After crossing the finish line for the first time, the overwhelming feeling of success allowed me a great satisfaction of accomplishment, and I immediately wanted and planned to challenge myself more. CCF and Team Achilles have provided me and many other Veterans the opportunity to experience life events we all once thought we’d lost forever. We Veterans build an invisible camaraderie just by wearing the same uniform and fighting for the greatest country ever. That fellowship bonds tighter in combat, and even more so through the suffering of loss and PTSD. Just by being together [at an event like the marathon] around other like-minded Veterans who also share in traumatic life experiences, provides us an implied comfort and relief knowing that we’re not alone.”

What did a return to the Boston Marathon mean to Masson?

“It absolutely beats a lifetime of therapy sessions,” he says. And competing alongside other Vets, he adds, is a chance to “reconnect and reconvene. Having the ability to watch my brothers and sisters in arms take defeat in stride and wear it with pride, offers me the amazing satisfaction to never quit and to graciously go on.”

Being a CCF Ambassador provides “an avenue to relieve stress, worry, and anxiety,” says Masson, “which are all feelings associated with traumatic and unexpected events. I consider it among the greatest honors serving as a CCF Ambassador. To represent such a prestigious and reputable foundation, which I hold in high regard, allows me the wonderful responsibility to serve others alongside those who do it with purity and excellence. I am forever grateful for this beautiful opportunity.”

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. Since its creation in 2004, more than 1,000 wounded Veterans have participated in the Achilles Freedom Team rehabilitation program. 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 races. With an objective of creating 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. The Achilles Team participates in nine mainstream marathons per year, including Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Disney World.