At 5:20 a.m. on Monday, four hours before the Boston Marathon’s elite runners took off, a group of 15 active-duty soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard gathered at the starting line in Hopkinson. Each soldier was in full combat uniform and carried a “ruck,” a military backpack weighing about 40 pounds. The rucks were filled with Camelbacks of water, extra uniforms, Gatorade, changes of socks—and first-aid and trauma kits. It was all just supposed to be symbolic.
"Forced marches" or "humps" are a regular part of military training, brisk walking over tough terrain while carrying gear that could help a soldier survive if stranded alone. These soldiers, participating in "Tough Ruck 2013,” were doing the 26 miles of the Boston Marathon to honor comrades killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, or lost to suicide and PTSD-related accidents after coming home.
When the explosion went off, Fiola and his group immediately went into tactical mode. “I did a count and told the younger soldiers to stay put,” Fiola says. “Myself and two other soldiers, my top two guys in my normal unit, crossed the street about 100 yards to the metal scaffoldings holding up the row of flags. We just absolutely annihilated the fence and pulled it back so we could see the victims underneath. The doctors and nurses from the medical tent were on the scene in under a minute. We were pulling burning debris off of people so that the medical personnel could get to them and begin triage.”
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