Metro

Family cheers Marine crossing Marathon finish line on hand cycle

Tesa Stinson (left), of Chambersburg, Pa., took a selfie with her daughters, Olivia, 7, and Rylee, who turns 3 next week, and husband Zachary Stinson after he completed the Boston Marathon as a hand cyclist.
Tesa Stinson
Tesa Stinson (left), of Chambersburg, Pa., took a selfie with her daughters, Olivia, 7, and Rylee, who turns 3 next week, and husband Zachary Stinson after he completed the Boston Marathon as a hand cyclist.

The bleachers near the Marathon finish line were almost empty late Monday morning, as winds whipped and rain poured down on the small group of hardy spectators who huddled there.

But a rowdy cheer erupted at 11:15 a.m. as Zachary Stinson zoomed past on his hand cycle.

“I’m just very proud of his accomplishment, and that he still has the ability to do this and compete,” said Tesa Stinson, 28, of Chambersburg, Pa., who glowed with pride in her husband, even when her teeth chattered with the cold after she stopped yelling.

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Stinson waited with her daughters, Olivia, 7, and Rylee, who turns 3 next week. The girls huddled together for warmth as their mother told them they should remind their daddy that they waited for him in the cold and rain the next time they ask him for something they want.

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Tesa Stinson said she was especially glad to be able to share the experience with her daughters, but also very excited to be able to go inside and warm up.

Zachary Stinson, a US Marine Corps veteran, lost both legs from above the knee and several fingers when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in November 2010, Tesa Stinson said, just weeks before their first wedding anniversary. He was 21.

“And I was four months pregnant with Olivia,” she added.

“Once his physical injuries had healed, we kind of found a new normal and picked up almost as new, fresh people,” she said.

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The experience, she said, only strengthened their bond.

“I can’t imagine not making it after everything we’ve been through,” she said. “It would be a waste, almost. . . . We’re a good team.”

Zachary Stinson raced on Monday with nearly 40 amputees from around the country, almost all veterans wounded on the battlefield, who are members of the Achilles Freedom Team. Members of the team get together several times a year for Marathons in Boston, Chicago, New York, and elsewhere.

Wives and children from as far away as Florida and California clustered together shivering in the bleachers as they waited to watch their loved ones cross the finish line.

“It’s all one big family, honestly,” said Morgan Masson, 16, of Pinehurst, N.C., who was there to cheer on her father.

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John Masson, 45, is a former Army Special Forces medic who lost both legs from above the knee and his dominant left hand when he stepped on an IED near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2010, his daughter said. He took up hand cycling about a year after his injuries.

“It’s sort of his therapy,” she said. “Amputees don’t have many options for exercise. A lot of stuff can build up, and the disability eventually gets almost overwhelming. . . . It’s something that he really depends on and something that he really loves to do.”

Morgan Masson said she’s a “daddy’s girl” who has learned a lot about resilience and maintaining positivity from her father.

“I am so proud of him,” she said. “People always ask me like, ‘Who’s your inspiration?’ My dad is one of the greatest people I know, and he just pushes so hard. He’s one of the happiest people I know, and if you know him, when he walks into a room, you realize his smile is so big and he just lights up the room.”

John Masson came close to dying of his injuries, which also partially blinded his best friend and “battle buddy,” she said. He initially was told that it wouldn’t even be possible to get a helicopter to airlift him out because he was in such a dangerous area, she said.

“He views life as so precious,” she said. “He knows how much life really means.”