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Team Andersen Airmen run 9/11 marathon

  • Published
  • By Airman Whitney Amstutz
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Two members of Team Andersen ran the 26-mile distance between Chapel II here and the Naval Base Guam chapel Sept. 11.

Captain David Leonard, an Andersen chaplain, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Mullins, a deployed Airman attached to the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, dedicated themselves to running the marathon in celebration of Capt. Leonard's 41st birthday and in remembrance of the events that took place Sept. 11, 2001.

"Last year while I was deployed to Kuwait I lost 45 pounds," Captain Leonard said. "After that I continued to stay in shape and eventually I worked my way up to being able to run from the Andersen gate to the gate at the Naval Base, so I figured the next step was to run a full marathon."

Being a day of dual importance for Captain Leonard, 9/11 seemed like an ideal day to challenge his physical and mental limitations. The grueling 26-mile run is made that much harder by various pot holes, gravel and steep, unyielding hills. Fortunately, the chaplain had a wingman to attempt the feat with him.

Sergeant Mullins met Captain Leonard while attending a worship service at the Lighthouse on base here and was compelled to complete the symbolic marathon with him.

"Not only did I want to prove to myself that I could do it, I also wanted to take the time to reflect and think about what 9/11 has meant for me and my country," Sergeant Mullins said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Sergeant Mullins vividly remembers sitting in his 11th grade English class and realizing that things would change forever.

"I was sitting in my classroom thinking it was just another day," he said. "The announcement came over the intercom to tune in to the news and we sat in awe of what we were seeing. At the time, I didn't fully grasp what it would mean for our country, but as I got older and enlisted in the Air Force, I really felt the significance of the events that day."
Like Sergeant Mullins, Captain Leonard can recall the scenes that led up to the moment he realized his country had fallen victim to an act of terrorism like "it was yesterday".

"It was my daughter's first day of kindergarten," Captain Leonard said. "She was excited and I was excited for her. Now she is a freshman in high school and it still amazes me how quickly time passes."

During the five hours and four minutes it took the pair to complete the marathon, they had ample time to contemplate the effects that day, nine years ago, had on their lives.

"I had time to think and pray," Captain Leonard said. "Sometimes you just need to dump all the daily, mundane stuff and clear your head for a time of real reflection. After the towers came down, I was tasked to deploy on and off. At the time I was nervous, but truly good things have come out of it. Helping and being a comfort to those who need it is what I want to do and I was able to accomplish that."

After the dust settled, Sergeant Mullins was left with gratitude and a renewed appreciation for life.

"By the end of that run I was tired, really tired. But I also took away from it a sense of what others have given. People make the ultimate sacrifice for the things they believe in every day, and I am eternally thankful for that bravery."