MCM Gold Star Families - Journeys of Healing and Triumph

Running a marathon changes you, whether it is your first or your fiftieth. The person who crosses the finish line is transformed from the one who started the race. It is this transformative power of the run that wear blue: run to remember activates in our Gold Star Race Program.

At this year’s Marine Corps Marathon – and with the generous support of The Unquiet Professional -- we are honored to sponsor fifteen Gold Star athletes on their journeys of healing and triumph.

Their life experiences have shaped them into athletes who meet adversity head-on. They are breaking through challenges with unmatched internal fortitude. Struggles are not foreign to them. Difficulties are not uncommon. Yet they tackle each obstacle with the strength of a nation. They have grit. They have heart.

Kyle Balduf is running in honor of his twin brother, Marine Sergeant Kevin Balduf. This race is a very personal race for Kyle. His brother “was a serious runner. Any Marine that served with him will tell you that Kevin ran too fast and too far, so no one wanted to go out on runs with him. When I run, I feel like Kevin is there by my side. It's one of the best ways I have to feel close to him and honor him.” 

Dale Beattie and Jaydean Hamilton are brother and sister running in honor of each other and their father, Army Sergeant First Class Clifford Beattie. They come from the Seattle-Tacoma Washington area. This will be the first marathon for them both. 

Anna Bevill is from Columbia, Maryland. She says that "running allows me to feel connected to my fallen brother (Army Specialist Thomas Doerflinger)."  Anna has never run a marathon before, but wrote that running with wear blue "has been an amazing motivator." 

Jenna Cordy comes from Jacksonville, North Carolina. She is running for her brother, Marine Corporal Mark Goyet. Jenna gave birth to her son, named after her brother, in August 2015 and is finding her stride again.

Judy Gentz hopes to raise awareness for Gold Star families, mothers in particular. She is from Grass Lake, Michigan and will be running in honor of her son, Air Force Captain Joel Gentz. “Since Joel's death the road to recovery has been a tough one. Every long distance event I participate in, I feel Joel's presence and his support as I push to do my best.”  She said that “Supporting the wear blue community celebrates life. That is precisely what I desire.” 

Casey Hicks is an active duty soldier originally from Toledo, Ohio. Her husband, Marine PFC Juan Garza, was killed while engaged in offensive combat operations against Iraqi forces in Hasan al Hamzah. He was securing a bridge to allow follow-on forces from the 5th Marine Regiment to enter Baghdad. She said Juan, whom she met in high school, had a smile that could light up a room. The MCM “will be a test to personal strength and discipline. I want to be a good role model to my soldiers and my children.”   This will be her third MCM; she ran her first just months after Juan was killed.

Natalie Hopkins is running her first marathon with the memory of her brother foremost in heart. Army Sergeant Jon Stiles had unmatched tenacity, Natalie says. She hopes to reflect that tenacity as she laces up for the MCM. “In running this marathon, I foresee massive change,” she predicted. “I would NOT be running this race for myself,” she says, “I would be running it in honor of not only Jon, but all who have served by his side.” 

Jane Horton is running her first marathon in honor of her husband, Specialist Christopher D Horton, a sniper who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan. She hopes that completing the MCM will serve as a tribute to her late husband and as a testament to the type of life yet before her.

 Lyndsey Lederer and Taylor Hukill are sisters who together are running their first marathon. They do so to honor the memory of their brother, Army Specialist John Pelham. Lyndsey says “Through training for and running the Marine Corps Marathon, I hope to build a foundation to place my grief, a deliberate space and process that is more concrete than the unexpected waves of emotion I've been riding.”  Of their brother Taylor says “John was a fun loving, bully hating kid! He always stood up for those around him. You couldn't be in the same room without feeling his love and compassion for life! He's just a wonderful person!”

Daniel Love is a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps. Sergeant Love's brother, Army 1st Lieutenant Scott Love, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of 1LT Love’s death. SGT Love said “I have yet to return to Washington DC or Arlington National Cemetery to visit his grave since his burial. What I would like to accomplish is to run the marathon in his honor and visit his grave.”

Theresa Northern hails from Richmond Hills, Georgia. She runs in honor of her husband, Marine Captain Matthew Freeman. Theresa hopes that running the MCM will help her continue to heal “while building strength and confidence through the momentous goal of finishing the Marine Corps Marathon.” Following Matthew's death, his family started a non-profit in his memory ( Through the Freeman Project, his legacy of character and service has lived on.

Maureen Short has run the MCM once before, in 2004 the year after the death of her husband, Army Captain Matthew August. She wrote that she wants to run the MCM this year to "inspire others that moving forward is possible, but that our heroes will always be with us. I would like to run the Marine Corps with wear blue to remind myself to keep pushing.”

Scott Warner is running in honor of his son, Marine Private Heath Warner. Already an IRONMAN athlete, this will be Scott’s fourth Marine Corps Marathon. Of his son Scott reminisces “I can still remember his bright smile! It would light up the room and he had this twinkle in his eyes that I just loved!” 

Help us to honor these brave, determined athletes.