By MJ Brickey
On March 9, McAlester resident and Marine Corps Recruiter John Leal, 28, finished a half marathon wielding the Marine Corp flag in Beaumont, Texas.
“It’s a tradition of mine to run the last three mile leg with the Marine Corps flag,” Leal said. “I do it to represent the Marines and every service member who has fought for this country, past and present.”
He said one of the proudest moments of this past run was when he was granted the opportunity to cross the finish line with a U.S. Army Korean War veteran, Felix Lugo, who carries the American flag.
Leal is originally from Lockhart, Texas, but has been stationed in McAlester for recruitment duty.
“I’ve been a United States Marine for eight years,” Leal said. “I spent five and a half years with an infantry unit in Camp Pendleton, Calif. — I completed three tours in that time frame.”
He said he has run four half-marathons, three half-marathons, and one Oklahoma City memorial half-marathon.
“As a Marine Corps recruiter, it’s my duty to live above the standard and set the right example for young men and women,” Leal said. “I feel like after running 10 miles and finishing that last 3.1 (miles) with a flag motivates and inspires individuals.”
He said he believes it is important for people set short-and long-term goals and doing everything it takes to accomplish those goals.
“My future Marines, family and friends have been a great motivation tool as I trained for this run. “I’d like to give a special thanks to my wife Ashley Leal and son Evan Leal for always supporting me in my personal goals.”
He also said he was thankful to Blake Heffley and Pamela Johnson for giving him nutritional guidance to stay fueled during his last run.
Leal says he and another Marine intend to participate in the Oklahoma City Memorial half-marathon on April 28, where again he will proudly finish with his Marine Corps flag — this time running the entire half-marathon with the flag.
He said, “We are doing it to represent the Marines that were lost in the (Oklahoma City) bombing.”