Major Runs To Honor Fallen Troops
(June 24, 2010)
Col. Mary McRae (left) and Maj. (Dr.) Derek Speten run in the Summer Thunder 10K race, which began and finished at the Fitness and Sports Center June 16, 2010, at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. Colonel McRae is the Electronic Systems Center chief of staff. Doctor Speten is the 66th Medical Group Diagnostics and Therapeutics flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Mark Wyatt)
|HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.
(6/21/2010 - AFNS) -- On February 14, 2007,
three victims of an Improvised Explosive Devise
explosion were rushed into the hospital where
Maj. (Dr.) Derek Speten, the 66th Medical Group
Diagnostics and Therapeutics flight commander,
Doctor Speten's patient, while severely burned,
initially appeared to be in better condition
than his two friends, one of whom arrived with a
tourniquet on each leg. However, as Doctor
Speten commenced his examination, it was quickly
apparent that his patient's internal injuries
After Doctor Speten made the man as comfortable
as possible, he sat with him for a moment in the
critical care unit, where another of the victims
The servicemember who had arrived in the trauma
bay with tourniquets on his legs told the doctor
that the burned man, who was the one who had
applied the tourniquets while they waited for
help, had been an avid runner who dreamed of
running the Boston Marathon.
Two hours later, Doctor Speten's patient died.
"I thought some of his dreams died as well," the
As he thought about this servicemember and his
friends throughout the rest of his deployment,
Doctor Speten said he began reprioritizing some
of his own goals.
"When I came back, I wanted to start running for
anyone who had had that desire and no longer had
the opportunity to do it," Doctor Speten said.
Realizing he didn't necessarily want to
sacrifice precious time with his family to
pursue his desire to run, Doctor Speten said he
and his wife bought a jogging stroller so he
could take their children, ages 7 and 4, with
"That was really difficult because when you're not
conditioned to run with a stroller, not only are you slow,
but your heart rate goes up faster," Doctor Speten said.
"It's definitely more challenging."
"Most people think I'm crazy for pushing a 100-pound
stroller, but it allowed me to spend time with my children,
which I had missed during my deployment," he said.
Doctor Speten ran his first marathon in December 2008. He
said that beyond the physical accomplishment of finishing
the race was the healing he felt by allowing himself,
uninterrupted, to reflect on his deployment and think of
those who couldn't be there with him.
"When I wondered if I could finish, I had my jersey that
said, 'In honor of all our fallen Soldiers,' so I couldn't
quit," the doctor said.
"While I ran, it was like a three-hour personal therapy," he
said. "I felt free and I thought about accomplishing
something, not just for myself, but for others that couldn't
be there that day. Toward the end, when my body started to
shut down, I would think of those people that I was running
for. It was challenging physically, but mentally, you have
to have a strategy for when your body wants to quit. I kept
thinking, 'I can do this,' because what I was asking of my
body was nothing compared to the heroic acts those
servicemembers had performed to save each other before they
got to that trauma bay."
Over the course of the next year, Doctor Speten completed
six additional marathons, among other races, and he
qualified for the Boston Marathon, which he ran alongside
another Airman from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., who was
running his first marathon.
Finishing that race was an incredible personal
accomplishment for a number of reasons, Doctor Speten said.
"Not only had I accomplished something for someone that I
had set in motion years ago, but suddenly I was also able to
help support another Airman and friend," he said.
Doctor Speten said he subsequently mailed his Boston
Marathon jersey, T-shirt and medal to the parents of the
servicemember who had inspired him to run it.
"He accomplished this through me," the doctor said. "I've
learned from these experiences not to drop your dreams, and
if someone else can't accomplish theirs, you can accomplish
them in their place."
While he's achieved his Boston Marathon goal, Doctor Speten
continues to race competitively. He and his brother, Shane,
participated in an Ironman 70.3 event in New Found Lake, N.H.,
on June 6.
He also recently ran alongside his wife during her first
marathon, and his training and competitions often include
pushing his children in the jog stroller.
Involving his family has made the experience not only
possible, but more enjoyable, Doctor Speten said.
"When you deploy, you really wish you had spent more time
with your family," he said. "You will always have personal
goals you want to accomplish, but involving your family and
receiving their support is what keeps you going."
By Meredith March
66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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