For Marine Lt. Col. Sean Patak, preparing for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon involved a lot more than running. He orchestrated a marriage proposal to his girlfriend at the finish line like a precise military operation.
With two miles left in the 26.2-mile race Oct. 31, Patak phoned ahead to one of the race directors, who escorted Patak's girlfriend, Laura Hutchinson, and his parents to a viewing area. With one mile left, he removed his Team Hope for the Warriors race shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words "Will You Marry Me?" across the front.
Within yards of the finish line, he got down on one of his aching knees and proposed.
She said "yes," the two donned two new T-shirts enscribed with "Just Engaged," and the couple crossed the finish line together.
Patak, who is stationed in Norfolk, Va., ran the marathon to raise funds for Hope for the Warriors, a nonprofit that supports wounded service members, their families and families of the fallen.
Patak knows firsthand of the struggles of wounded service members. He ran alongside many of the combat wounded whom he has also served with as a Marine officer.
"I have been in the service a very long time, been to combat, and I have personally known friends who have been killed in action and wounded in action," Patak said. "Seeing our wounded team members compete is a huge source of pride, inspiration, and it is evidence of the indomitable human spirit."