As thousands of lightly clad runners pounded along 26 miles of asphalt and concrete between Hopkinton and Boston in Monday’s Boston Marathon, one man marched alone. Wearing a camouflage fatigue uniform and combat boots, he swung along with a cadence to his step as an unseasonably hot day bounced waves of heat off the city streets. He carried a heavier load than the runners: a backpack, a small U.S. flag, and a poster saying that he was marching the marathon route in memory of Marine Sargent Billy Woiowicz, a Groton resident who was killed in action in Afghanistan last June.
When Michael McDonough, who was raised in Groton and graduated from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, passed Mile 17, New Hampshire photographer Pat Kenedy Corlin captured this memorable image of him.
Before his Monday march, McDonough posted on Facebook:
Michael McDonough : Theres a few people id like to thank today…id like to thank my dad for teaching me how to be a hard worker and being raised by a marine…id like to thank my big brother for serving two tours in afghanistan and iraq i was to young to know what it really means then now i know…and last id like to thank a friend billy woitowicz for giving his own life protecting his brothers and sisters in arms and protecting our countrys freedom. it may not be a deployment but this ruck for the boston marathon in the morning is for you and to honor every other family and friends who lost loved ones during the war.thank you everyone for the support donations and being there it doesnt just mean alot to me it means alot to every person serving in the uniformed armed forces.thank you hoah
Michael McDonough : April 16th marathon monday, 26.2 mile ruck march in honor of our fallen troops.please make it out to show your support.please msg me if you are willing to make donations to Sgt Woitowicz family and or The Wounded Warrior. Thank you everyone who have already given their support.Always remember Never forgotten.Hoah.
McDonough was also hoping to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project with his trek. Groton Park Commissioner Don Black recalled that McDonough was very upset last spring when Woitowicz’s death was announced. He was the person who drove through Groton, lowering town flags to half-staff in mourning, Black said.
Corlin remembered the moment she took the photo: “It was his sign that caught the corner of my eye as he passed. There were guardsmen and military all over the place. Some on duty closing off streets, others in groups walking the route. So at first, when he was walking towards me, I did not realize there was anything unusual about him. It was after he passed and I turned to read his sign and he was alone on the vast open street that I realized it was an extraordinary moment in the race. I can’t even explain how there were no racers on the road right at that moment. It seemed to me to be even more moving and personal trek that he was on because that street was completely empty at that moment. Just a few moments later it was full of runners again!”
Woitowicz was killed in a “combat operation” on June 7, 2011 in Badghis, a province in Afghanistan. The 2007 graduate of Groton-Dunstable Regional High School entered the Marines when he graduated, and was assigned to the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C. His decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal. Woitowicz also earned the Army parachutist wings and a brown belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.