When a U.S. Marine lost his leg to an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan, he became withdrawn and felt marred by his injury. Six years later, he completed the Boston Marathon while clutching a very personal American flag (video below).
On April 17, Jose Luis Sanchez stunned audiences as he crossed the finish line of the 2017 Boston Marathon. Outfitted with a prosthetic left leg, he completed the 26.2-mile race carrying an American flag, NBC Sports reports.
Wearing a shirt emblazoned with "Semper Fi Fund," Sanchez ran to raise money for the charity, which is dedicated to helping wounded veterans transition back into civilian life.
"The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities," the charity states on its official website.
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In 2011, Sanchez had stepped on an IED just two weeks before he was slated to return from a tour in Afghanistan to his home in San Antonio, Texas. When two British soldiers recovered him, he realized that he had lost his left leg.
"They picked me up and my leg slid off," Sanchez told Runner's World. "They were able to save my other leg, and through hard work and determination we are here."
Having been an athlete who prided himself in his physical fitness, Sanchez was devastated by his injury and fell into depression.
"I lost all of my drive," Sanchez told GrindTV. "The injury humbled me. I lost all my muscle mass. ... I needed assistance just to get out of my wheelchair, and even then I couldn't walk more than a foot without collapsing."
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As the wounded Marine recovered, members of his patrol unit gifted him with an American flag inscribed with their own well-wishes and personal messages in black marker. Sanchez was unable to look at the flag for years.
"I boxed it up for three or four years because I didn't want to acknowledge it," Sanchez recalled. "One day I opened it back up and read through the inspirational quotes they sent me and I was motivated."
Finding resolve, Sanchez says he pushed himself to reach peak physical condition. Despite not even enjoying running, he decided to partake in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 and the Boston Marathon 2016 and 2017. He ran all three carrying the American flag that had inspired him.
"Instead of putting it away, I wanted to fly this flag again in their honor," Sanchez told WBZ-TV after completing his latest marathon.
The resilient Marine added: "We live for others -- I've learned that throughout being angry, and frustrated, and with all that PTSD. I'm channeling it to be positive and to give back to whatever I have taken away from the community."
Sanchez serves as a reminder that anyone in the throes of despair can recover when they remember that they are not alone.