(This story is written by Sheryl Nathanson, CPO , four time Marine Corps Marathon finisher.)
It isn’t every year that you get to celebrate a birthday of 242 years. But that is exactly what the Marine Corps celebrated on November 10th, 2017. This year, the Marine Corps birthday had extra special meaning for me, as I was able to celebrate it with a truly remarkable marine.
In 2010, Marine Sergeant Rob Jones was serving in Afghanistan when he was wounded by an IED (improvised explosive device). He lost both of his legs, a left knee disarticulation (through the knee joint) amputation, and a right transfemoral (above the knee) amputation. Ever since his injuries, Rob has become an inspiration and a voice for the military community, raising awareness of the struggles that wounded soldiers face upon returning to the states – overcoming the injuries, both physical and emotional—in their recovery. He competed and medaled in the 2012 Paralympic Games, and in 2013-2014, he biked across the country, raising $126,000 for charities that provide aide to wounded veterans.
From these accomplishments was born another idea to further raise awareness and funds. Starting in October 2017, Rob set off on yet another journey—running 31 marathons, in 31 days, in 31 cities across three countries. Running even just one marathon presents an exceptional physical demand for the average person, let alone running with bilateral prostheses! Rob was determined to complete his journey with the support of his wife Pam, family, and a growing following from around the country with a passion towards his cause.
I stumbled across Rob’s journey through social media—specifically through a patient model of mine from P&O school, Scott Rigsby—another bilateral amputee who has completed multiple marathons and triathlons himself. I was excited to see that Rob’s 30th marathon on his journey was to take place in Baltimore, and it also corresponded with the Marine Corps birthday. I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for Dankmeyer, Inc. to provide support and encouragement to Rob along his journey. With Dankmeyer on board and with Scott’s assistance, I reached out to Rob’s wife, Pam. I asked her how we could be a part of Rob’s Baltimore marathon, and she asked if we would be able to contribute with an aide station.
After a few phone calls from Charles Dankmeyer and Mark Hopkins (Dankmeyer CEO), we coordinated through the Baltimore Orioles and with Pam, and were able to set up our aide station right by Rob’s RV just outside of Camden Yards. The Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Police and yes, the Marine Corps were all there to participate and celebrate Rob’s efforts. Prior to the event, we also reached out to local news stations in hopes that they would be as excited and inspired by this story as we were. Before sunrise on that cold Friday morning, a small team of Dankmeyer staff (including myself, Jeanne Smith and Nancy Lee) arrived at Camden Yards to ensure everything was set up and ready to go before the start of his run at 7am. I don’t think anyone was expecting the weather to be in the mid-30s, but that didn’t dampen Rob’s or anyone else’s spirit.
Rob was joined by at least 70 eager runners for his first loop of the marathon, including Baltimore police academy cadets, other marines, high school students, representatives from local running clubs, his family, outreach from the Semper Fi Fund, and others in the Baltimore area just inspired to run with Rob. There were also multiple news stations, both from Baltimore and Washington, DC who were there to catch an interview and a glimpse of Rob’s journey. His wife even noted that 3 times as many media and interviewers came out today, compared to other cities, and I’m hoping we played a small role in helping that happen!
While a few runners dropped off some treats prior to running, we were the only aide station for the run. The marathon consisted of four different loops, so in between each, everyone came back to the aide station at Camden Yards to grab a drink and a snack before the next loop. Everyone loved the sweet and salty treats, Gatorade, and water, and especially the cheers! The nearby Hilton property, who has been a sponsor of Rob’s Journey from the beginning, came down to the stadium and treated everyone to some amazing hot chocolate!
Rob’s final loop for his Baltimore marathon consisted of laps around Camden Yards, the home of Rob’s favorite baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles. The organization opened up Eutaw Street, and Rob, along with his fellow runners, were able to soak in the stadium with each lap. We know that this meant so much to him. With Jeanne and Nancy manning the aide station, I was lucky enough to join Rob for his last four miles. Running with him was so inspiring, I am still in awe of what he has accomplished. When all was said and done, there were congratulations, pictures, a lot of camaraderie and then everyone packed up, wrapped up, and headed out.
Rob went on to finish the 31st and final marathon of his journey in Washington, DC the following day, on Veterans Day. It was an absolute honor for Dankmeyer to have been a part of Rob Jones’ Journey. I look forward to continuing to help this great marine share his cause and continue to inspire both his military family and the rest of us.
You can read more about Rob’s efforts on his website by clicking here. You can follow him on his FB page by clicking here. We have compiled a slideshow of the day's events that we hope you will enjoy.