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500 for the Fallen passes through Lexington on way to D.C.

May 27, 2016

Wicked Local Lexington

Leo McGonagle and his team of three other runners took ahold of an American flag from Sarah B. Winch and Lance Svendsen at the Capt. Parker Statue on the corner of Lexington Battle Green just after 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

A small crowd of supporters, as well as fifth-graders from Downey Elementary School in Westwood who were on a field trip in Lexington, cheered on the groups they completed the first hand-off in the 500 for the Fallen relay run. McGonagle, a Lexington resident and veteran of the U.S. Army, was joined on his 4.8 mile run by fellow veterans Brian Maloney of the Marine Corps, Michael Sanders of the Air Force and John Fieler of the Army. These runners were part of the first of the five-day relay.

“I saw it last year and thought about doing it. I’m a Lexington resident, and this leg was filled,” McGonagle said. "This year I was able to do it."

Winch and Svendsen started the relay at North Bridge in Concord.

McGonagle, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, knew he wanted to help support the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which helps pay for children of military service members killed in service to the country to go to college.

In addition to the American flag, McGonagle received Marine Sgt. Garett Adam Mongrella’s dog tags from Winch. This year’s run in dedicated to Mongrella, who was one of the first to die during the Gulf War in 1991.

Read more about the Lexington resident, a three time Bronze Star recipient, and his reasons for running.

Mongrella’s son Anthony, who worked his way through the University of Iowa is now connected with the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, who are helping him pay off his student loans. Anthony was 18 months old when his father was killed in action.

Svendsen, who ran the first leg of the relay with Winch, said three years ago he wanted to help support the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country. So he looked to start this relay race to organize this event.

“I figured anyone could run a 5K. I thought lets good huge,” he said.

He started the foundation Run Anyway in 2012 to help runners registered for the 2012 New York City marathon fulfill their respective commitments. The foundation has expanded over the years. The 500 for the Fallen event, organized and hosted by Run Anyway.

The relay is a 24-hour a day run from 9 a.m. Thursday, May 26, to 5 p.m. Monday, May 30, (Memorial Day) and the hand-offs will be at war memorials and historic sites on the more than 500 miles from Concord to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. The only place the person carrying the flag, which flew on an American base in Afghanistan, will walk in as the relay crosses in front of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Monday afternoon.

“We thought Memorial Day, what better day to do this,” Svendsen said.

Also in Lexington, Thursday morning for the first hand-off was Colleen O’Hare, who is one of the people working in the support vehicles this year. She, like others traveling down the East Coast, will also run unfilled parts of the relay.

O’Hare’s husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ray O’Hare, died in July 2000 when T-38 crash during a test mission at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

“This is the first time, I’ve come up all the way,” said O’Hare, a resident of Piney Point, Maryland.

She and her three children have meet the race in the Washington, D.C., for the final legs of the run during the past two years. “(The runners) meet with some of the kids that they are helping,” she said.

O’Hare’s two daughters — Katie, a junior at the College of Charleston, and Elizabeth, a freshman at Mount Saint Mary’s University — are both receiving money from the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. Her son, Tommy, is a junior in high school but she expects he will also benefit from the foundation.

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