National Guard soldiers man a roadblock Tuesday near the scene of the twin bombings that occured during the Boston Marathon on Monday. (Getty Images)
First Sgt. Bernard Madore spent most of the Boston Marathon doing what first sergeants do: keeping his men on track, joking around, playfully shouting at the other runners to “get up the hill!”
The fun came to an abrupt end the afternoon of April 15, when two explosive devices went off near the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 180. That’s when Madore’s training kicked in.
“I started looking up and around as soon as it went off to see where’s it going?” Madore told Army Times. “And then there was a secondary bomb, so we paused to look around, because you don’t know if somebody’s going to start shooting or what.”
Madore and several other soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard’s 1,060th Transportation Company had ruck-marched the 26.2-mile race to raise money for the nonprofit Military Friends Foundation. They were waiting in a medical tent for the last members of their group to catch up when the first blast went off around the corner.
The men rushed toward the scene and immediately began helping first-responders tear down a barricade that separated spectators from the marathon route. When the uninjured were freed, it was on to the next step.
“A medical assistant yelled at me, ‘Hey, Army guy! Go do triage!’ ” Madore recalled.
While others searched out clean rags and water to tend wounds, Madore picked up an unsoiled baby blanket lying on the ground, then moved to help a woman whose burning clothes were being removed to save her skin. He covered her up and put a tourniquet around her ankle as she held her husband’s hand.
Once the woman was taken away, an emergency worker handed Madore a 3-year-old boy with a compound fracture and asked him to make sure the child stayed near his mother, who was on the ground receiving medical attention.
After he’d helped patch up a few victims, Madore regrouped with his men to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for.
“It was elbows-to-elbows, policemen, firemen, first responders, those medical people,” Madore said. “It was amazing how many people just ran in to help that aren’t Army trained.”
Dozens of local guardsmen and Army employees from the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., ran in the race, but also downtown that day were more than 400 soldiers from the Massachusetts Guard’s 747th Military Police Company, who shifted from security personnel to first-responders in a matter of seconds.
“The Boston Marathon is one event that we proudly serve each year in concert with local, state and federal agencies,” 79th Troop Command commander Lt. Col. Mark Merlino said in a statement the morning of the race. “Our guardsmen really seem to enjoy interacting with crowds of people who come to enjoy the marathon.”
Guard members stayed on duty in downtown Boston during the days after the blasts, providing backup security and support to law enforcement both at the blast site and in other public areas, including the subway system. Members of the 387th Ordnance Company were also on site later in the week.
No soldiers were reported to have been injured in the blasts in Boston.
For his part, Madore, a 26-year National Guard veteran with two deployments to Iraq, has returned home to Derry, N.H., but not without a changed perspective.
“I’ve seen bombs go off and accidents and blood and gore,” he said. “Just to see that there — especially in the streets where I grew up — it was really devastating to me that this happened on our ground. And how dare they?”