Joe Foster hoped that he carried even a fraction of the weight members of the U.S. military carry on their shoulders every day during the Ogden Newspapers Classic Half Marathon on Saturday.
In honor of the military and triple amputee soldier Kyle Hockenberry, a man Foster has never met, Foster carried a heavy American flag for the duration of the 13.1-mile course.
Foster's efforts were made in hopes of raising $50,000 for U.S. Army PFC Hockenberry, who lost both of his legs, his left arm and the middle finger of his right hand to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in June 2011. A poignant picture of Hockenberry being treated by a flight medic while being transported to a hospital shows a tattoo on the side of his rib cage that reads, "For those I love I will sacrifice."
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Joe Foster crosses the finish line carrying the American flag in recognition of triple amputee soldier Kyle Hockenberry, for whom Foster is trying to raise funds.
"We need the Ohio Valley to come out and help him. We need all the help we can get," Foster said after crossing the finish line. "He sacrificed for us, now it's our turn to help him."
The funds will be used to build a "smart home" for Hockenberry in Marietta, Ohio. The Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation has partnered with the Gary Sinese Foundation in order to build smart homes for injured military personnel. Smart homes are custom-designed houses that cater to the individual needs of injured veterans. These houses improve the quality of life for veterans and assist them in being more independent.
"I offered to get him a group of military to help him carry his flag this year at the race because it is such a physically requiring task," Race Director R. "Scat" Scatterday said of Foster. "His response was, 'No thank you, that's my burden.'"
Foster has raised almost $5,000 in donations from individuals and PPG Industries, but he needs corporate sponsorship to reach his much larger goal. He encouraged local businesses to participate, since the total project will cost $30,000 at the very least.
"I know if I go to every coal mine portal, every exit of the steel mills, every power plant exit and collect from individuals, I could get the money, but I can't be in 100 places at once," Foster said. "If I could get it collectively from individuals, we could do it."
Foster recently partnered with Gunnery Sgt. Dale Sigler of the Marine Corps League, who had learned about Foster's efforts and decided to help.
"This is what the Marine Corps League, the VFW and the American Legion, that's what we do. I'd like to talk to them about making their donations toward Joe," Sigler said.
Foster also said West Virginia Marine Corps Commandant John B. Nanny has agreed to assist Foster with donations and contacting businesses.
Foster sold T-shirts and hats at the race with all proceeds going straight to Hockenberry's smart home. The items are still available for sale by contacting Foster at 740-676-0605. Individuals can also donate to Hockenberry by visiting tunnelstotowers.org and clicking on the "Give Tribute" tab.
"We're taking this kid for granted and his sacrifices, and I'm not going to stand by and let this happen," Foster said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help this guy out who made such a great sacrifice for us and my family."