FREDRICKSBURG, Texas - No matter how many wheels it takes, T. Fred Harvey is determined to make history as he switches from a wheelchair to walker.
He's already in the books as a World War II hero. The former paramarine and demolitions expert received the Silver Star Medal for saving the life of a fellow marine at Iwo Jima.
Now at 96 years old, he's completing his first marathon.
“Well, I'm honored to be considered to run in the thing,” says Harvey. “And it turned out to be quite a deal for me.”
Instead of meeting in Washington, D.C. as in the past, this year's Marine Corps Marathon was spread out across the nation. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, Harvey started his race where he previously volunteered at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg.
“I think that the most striking thing was how the community came out to support him,” says Harvey’s friend and Ambassador of the Navy SEAL Foundation, Dr. Glenn Paige.
He pushed Harvey’s chair alternating with two other teammates, Mike Lawrence, master gunnery sergeant for the U.S. Marine Corps and Chris Haley, a member of Team Gratitude, a Frogman Swim team founded by Paige to fundraise for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“All along the route people were honking and waving flags. They had tents set up with four or five American flags, and they were trying to serve us mimosas and bloody marys, but we decided that probably wasn't a good idea until we got done,” laughs Paige.
Harvey’s custom racing chair was built by Ainsley's Angels, which has chapters in the Houston area and across the U.S., to help the disabled experience endurance events.
“For a private first class in the United States Marine Corps to have accomplished the objective at Iwo Jima and still be alive with us today - it’s a reminder that you can truly do whatever you put your mind to,” says Ainsley’s Angels President Major Kim ‘Rooster’ Rossiter.
The chair will roll in every future Marine Corps Marathon to honor Harvey and other marines who fought 75 years ago.
"Together we're stronger, and together we shall accomplish missions and objectives that we may never have even imagined," adds Rossiter.
After being pushed by the team, Harvey finished the 26.2 miles on his own two feet, becoming the marathon's oldest person to cross the finish line after five hours, 20 minutes, and eight seconds.
Just a few days shy of his 97th birthday, Harvey has found a historic way to celebrate and prove he's got plenty of steam to blow out the candles.
“I'm ready to party,” he says.