MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
It was Quantico’s most popular picture from the Marine Corps Marathon: Just across the finish line, a runner with two prosthetic legs springs exuberantly into the embrace of a uniformed Marine as race volunteers look on, smiling.
The shot was “liked” 278 times on the website Instagram, but its subjects were difficult to identify. The runner leans into the hug so far his head disappears behind the Marine’s, whose face is buried in his friend’s shoulder.
That Marine turned out to be 2nd Lt. Brian Parker, a student at The Basic School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, who had not seen former Cpl. Carlos Torres since 2009, more than two years before Torres lost his lower legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
“I had no idea he’d be there,” said Parker, who was Torres’ platoon sergeant in the Scout Platoon, 1st Tank Battalion, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.
“He was always very quiet when he was a young Marine, but he always got the job done. You never had to tell him twice,” Parker said, calling Torres a “sturdy professional.”
In spring of 2009, Parker left for school after being selected for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Program, and Torres deployed to Afghanistan the following year.
“It was definitely great seeing him,” Torres said. “It had been three or four years since I last saw him.” Now living in San Diego, he had made the trip to D.C. specially to run in the Marine Corps Marathon’s 10K.
The native of Inglewood, Calif., served with Company D, 1st Tank Battalion, and had just reenlisted when he was hit by an IED in July 2011. In March of last year, he was named 1st Marine Division’s Marine of the Year for 2011.
When Parker recognized him coming over the hill at the marathon, he called out to him. The 10K race had taken Torres past the marathon’s starting line, where Parker and the other lieutenants of TBS’s Echo Company were working.
“We said, ‘Hey,’ and then he ran off. I thought it would be nice to run with him,” Parker said. They chatted while running the last three-quarters of a mile or so of the race, embraced and parted ways, as Parker had to return to his post. “We really didn’t get a chance to sit down and have a beer or anything like that,” he said.
Parker said he admires the way Torres has remained active despite his combat wounds. “He does not at all let his injury keep him from doing anything,” he said. “He surfs, scuba dives — he’s just a heck of a guy.”
Torres said he has run in a few marathons since his injury but hasn’t run a full one yet. “I hope to come out next year to do the whole marathon with my platoon commander,” he said.
In addition to surfing and scuba diving, he said he plans to start monoskiing again in December. “Once I got my legs, that’s when I started being more active,” he said.
In January, he’ll start college for mechanical engineering.
Reached by phone on Veterans Day, though, he was just getting ready to jump out of a plane at an event for wounded and disabled veterans at Lake Elsinore, Calif.
— Writer: firstname.lastname@example.org