Roy Exum: ‘No (Runner) Left Behind’

Saturday, October 13, 2012
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Ben Baltz was six years old when his parents were told their child had osteosarcoma, cancer in his right leg. But when the child’s lower right leg was soon amputated, J.C. and his wife Kim wanted to make sure that Ben would grow to learn he could do anything and, in the words of his mom, “needs to be thankful that he is able to do it because there are a lot of kids out there still fighting cancer.
“We just want him to get out there and participate in life,” she explained last Sunday when Ben, now 11 and a student at the STEMM Middle School in Valparaiso, Fla., competed in his third triathlon for kids.
The Sea Turtle Tri (“try”) included a 150-yard swim, a 4-mile bicycle ride and a one-mile run but his mom began to worry slightly when Ben didn’t appear at the finish line like he normally does.
You see, Ben wears his sports prosthetic when he plays sports like soccer, baseball and participates in triathlons but after he had changed from his “mechanical knee” to his “running leg” last weekend, he zipped through the swim and bike race before things went south. “My leg got wobbly,” he would later say, and soon a screw came out of the prosthesis, the apparatus breaking in half.
As Ben debated whether to hop or crawl after seeing the device  couldn’t be quickly fixed, he heard a voice ask, “Need some help?” Ben looked up and there were several United States Marines who had come from the Pensacola training station to help with the children’s event. The second he said, “Sure” a Private First Class named Mathew Morgan  swooped Ben up in one arm, grabbed the kid’s prosthetic leg with the other and started running the rest of the race.
Within three bats of an eyelash at least six other Marines joined the fallen runner and his newest friend and, with one calling cadence, surged toward a large crowd. The announcer yelled, “Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to turn around and look what is happening on the course…”
Glory of glories, there wasn’t a dry eye on the beach. John Murray, a race official, explained that the scene was more of “a buildup in a way because as more and more people realized the Marine was going to run all the way to the finish line, I was overcome with emotion.”
Ben’s mother was also very emotional. “Everybody was crying,” she said, watching the wiry Marine carry her son. “It was very touching that the Marines were there in the first place. They picked (Ben) up and everybody started cheering, giving them support and giving Ben support.”
The Good Samaritan act has rocketed its way around the country this week, been featured on CNN and nationally acclaimed. Capt. Frank Anderson, the commanding officer at the Marine training center, told CNN reporters he was very proud. It’s great to see what Marines do – not leave anybody behind – is exemplified by the youngest members of our institution.
“(PFC Morgan) is not a real big guy but he picked that young boy up quick, threw him on his back, and ran the rest of the course. We were all pretty pumped!” said the officer.
Ben, of course, was a little embarrassed – he’d rather have finished on his own – and is a little amazed at the wildfire roar the story has caused. “He thinks it’s just about the Marines,” laughed his mother but his dad may have had a premonition.
Shortly before the fun-filled race started, J.C. and Ben were throwing a football on the beach when his Dad stopped to give Ben some chocolate before the opening swim. On the wrapper of a Dove bar were the words, “You are exactly where you need to be.”
At the time Ben Baltz had no idea that the Marines were right where they needed to be too.
Semper Fi.


We Need Reconciliation And Not Division

The news is reporting that Mayor Berke is withdrawing city maintenance from the Chattanooga Confederate Cemetery. I would suggest that this move is short-sighted and likely to defeat the very goals the mayor has in mind. There are better ways to handle this.  A recent Marist poll indicates that a majority of people do not want Confederate memorials removed. Even 40 percent ... (click for more)

Calm The Anti-Confederate Hysteria

I am hoping this newspaper can in some way calm this "confederate hysteria" that seems to be steam rolling at a rapid pace.  My family helped pioneer this region and yes....fought for the "southern cause". My ancestors are buried all throughout the area and my family's cabin is commemorated at the Chattanooga/Chickamauga park.  Without exaggeration...I fear my family's ... (click for more)

Coolidge Park Crowd Gets Twilight, Cricket Chirping As Solar Eclipse Arrives

A crowd at Coolidge Park and the nearby Walnut Street Bridge got twilight and cricket chirping as the heralded solar eclipse finally arrived at mid-afternoon Monday. As the moon moved across the sun around 2:30 p.m., birds quit chirping and began to roost. Crickets started going full force. Lights on the Market Street Bridge began to flicker on. The event, sponsored by Comcast, ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Airport President Gets New Contract Amid Double-Digit Growth, Improvements

Chattanooga Airport President Terry Hart has been given a six-year extension on his contract amid double-digit passenger increases and a host of airport improvements. There is no increase in his $158,377 pay, but the board plans to put in annual performance reviews with some built-in bonuses. Jim Hall, vice chairman of the Airport Board, said it is also important that the ... (click for more)

No. 25 Vols Work On Situational Football On Monday

Tennessee held Monday morning's fall camp practice at Neyland Stadium as coach Burch Jones and the Vols, who are ranked No. 25 in the preseason Associated Press poll, focused on situational football. "Right now, we have to have the discipline to execute," Jones said. "Football is too hard of a game as it is from the technical aspect of things, from fundamentals, effort ... (click for more)

Covenant Names Neal Young Head Men's Basketball Coach

After a national search of candidates, the Covenant men's basketball program has a new head coach as director of athletics Tim Sceggel has named Neal Young the 16th head coach in program history. Young comes to Covenant after spending the last four years as head coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. In addition to his head coaching role at Goshen, Young was an associate athletic ... (click for more)