MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
In the warm air of a desert morning, 10 Marines from the station’s provost marshal’s office set off on a mission, April 28, 2011, to benefit the Special Olympics by taking part in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a yearly international event to raise money for the organization.
The military policemen ran 15 miles along Interstate 8, stretching from mile marker 91, to nearly Gila Bend, in the torch’s journey to the State Special Olympics Summer Games at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz.
Four torches starting at different locations all over the state were transported by foot to their meeting place in Mesa to light the Flame of Hope at the games, which took place Friday and Saturday.
The Torch Run participants also included the Bureau of Land Management Rangers, Yuma Juvenile Court, Yuma Police Department and Arizona Department of Public Safety among others.
For the Marines, the challenge was an opportunity to do something positive for others.
“I figure if these Olympians have to overcome some pretty large obstacles in their daily lives, what is it for me to run 15 miles?” said Gunnery Sgt. Scott Hubbard, criminal investigations division chief investigator. “With the challenges they face every day, some of them are better athletes than we are,” added the Marine Corps Marathon competitor.
“I don’t do it because I’m a runner,” said Gunnery Sgt. Arturo Belmonte, PMO services chief. “I’m capable, and my kids are all healthy, so I do it for the Olympians, so that they can have this great event.”
The group managed to finish their leg of the run more than 40 minutes ahead of schedule, and recorded the fastest time by more than an hour.
“We took the extra step to do the best that we can,” said Sgt. Andrew Smith, CID investigator. “I believe in the cause of the Special Olympics, and this was a great way to give back to the community.”
The Torch Run helped benefit more than 1,400 competitors at the 2011 State Summer Games in Mesa.
“The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest financial contributor to the Special Olympics nationwide,” said Stacy Roberts, Special Olympics of Arizona grants manager.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for and increase awareness of the Special Olympics.
The Torch Run was quickly adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which is now recognized as the founding law enforcement organization of the event.
“What started in Kansas as a flicker of hope for Special Olympics has now become a roaring flame of stability for Special Olympics athletes worldwide,” said LaMunyon.
At its most basic level, the Torch Run is an actual running event in which officers and athletes run the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions, state Games, and National Summer or Winter Games.
As long as there is a Torch Run, Marines intend to participate in it.
“As long as I’m capable and my body is good to go, I’ll keep doing it,” said Belmonte.