Injured veteran competes in Marine Corps Marathon

December 5th, 2011
Daily Courier photo of Michael Blair

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Blair, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student, rode as part of Team Semper Fi during the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

By Lisa Irish | Prescott Daily Courier | Dcourier.com | December 4, 2011

About 4 miles into the Marine Corps Marathon, Michael Blair of Prescott saw another injured veteran like himself having an issue with a derailleur on his bike so he stopped to help him out.

Then Blair helped fix a chain that cut a slot three-quarters of the way through another Wounded Warrior's seat post during the Oct. 30 race in Washington, D.C.

"Later, a cyclist I'd helped out earlier gave me a push when I needed it," said Blair, a sophomore at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who rode his bike with Team Semper Fi.

Blair severely damaged his knees in 2005 during an incident northeast of the Al Asad Airbase while serving as a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine in Iraq.

"We were 1½ miles from the Haditha Dam when I drove over a plate, triggering an IED that ripped the door off my Humvee and took my knees out," Blair said.

During the marathon, rock bands played, supporters cheered participants, and runners and cyclists told each other they could do it even at the most grueling part - a steep hill at the end, Blair said.

"I was so exhausted, but when I was done it was such a great feeling," said Blair, who completed the marathon in 2 hours, 54 minutes, and 32 seconds.

After he was injured in 2005, Blair said he was flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital in about 48 hours. While he was still unconscious, doctors asked his wife Delissa if she wanted them to amputate his damaged legs.

"She told me she said 'I'm not making that decision for him,'" Blair said.

When Blair came to, he decided to rebuild his knees, underwent 60 surgeries, medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, and now walks with the aid of a cane. As part of his physical rehabilitation, Blair took part in kayaking, sled hockey and other sports, including cycling.

Blair first rode in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2008 with Team Achilles, then signed up in 2009 with Team Semper Fi, who provided the bike he rides now.

Before the race, Blair and other Wounded Warriors visited newly injured veterans in the wards at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, encouraging them to find ways to do what they love.

"There's a bond in the Marine Corps. It goes beyond the jobs we do," Blair said. "It's the encouragement and support we give each other."

After the marathon, Blair returned to Prescott in time for he and Delissa to take daughters Mirabella, 6, and Lily, 8 months, trick or treating on Mount Vernon.

Blair said he plans on bringing his family to the marathon next year so the friends he and Delissa made while he went through physical rehabilitation can meet Lily in person for the first time.

"So many people want to see the girls, and they really miss Delissa," Blair said.

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