Here's Johnny - Death of a soldier
Dear Readers are familiar with my occasional lamentations over finding a new idea for this space every week. Why, it's enough to give this writer a prematurely blond hair or three (especially around the temples). But sometimes, when I'm running out of time on a Tuesday morning, a topic lands in my lap. I wish that hadn't happened this week. Monday, I interviewed Chuck Griffis of John's Run/Walk Shop for a preview about Sunday's Iron Horse Half Marathon (see story on page 1). The following day, I expected a call from Griffis with a few more details about two of the contestants in the 13.1-mile event - Matthew Bradford of Nicholasville and Augusto Pineiro of Ft. Stewart, Ga. Bradford, who lost both legs and his eyesight in Iraq in 2007, would be operating a handcycle, but I wanted to double-check Griffis's assumption that fellow Purple Heart winner Pineiro would be, too. As expected, Griffis called, but with unexpected and tragic news: Pineiro was killed Monday while training for the race. No other details were immediately available. By then, I'd already done a Google news search on the two men, and learned that Pineiro was a regular competitor in long-distance races, including a 100-mile run last year while wearing a gas mask. After Griffis and I spoke, I realized that Pineiro might well be alive had he been running and not in a handcycle, which he was training in to prepare to serve as a guide for Bradford. I got in touch with Bradford's wife, Amanda, who confirmed that Pineiro, whose nickname was "Tito," was fatally struck by a car in Georgia while training. According to news accounts from 2016, Pineiro was a five-time winner of the Purple Heart and, while he was an outstanding athlete, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of his feats, like the 2016 Knock on Wood 100-mile race in Greenville, S.C., were done to raise awareness of such problems, and to honor those who never returned from war. Pineiro's goal in handcycling 13.1 miles Sunday was no doubt the same. The word "tragedy" is often used in journalism, especially that of the television variety. It is appropriate in this case. Griffis told me that without Pineiro as his guide, Bradford won't take part in the race, but his wife probably would, and Bradford would be asked to serve as the official starter. Late Tuesday morning, Amanda Bradford told me she wasn't sure whether they would do so, but hoped they would, in part to honor Pineiro. I aim to bring you the story of the Bradfords in next week's Sun, along with photos of the race and much more about the soldier who lost his life while preparing to do a good deed for a brother. That's sort of what military service is all about, right? A much younger, lighter version of me used to run in 10-K races, including four Bluegrass 10,000s in my hometown of Lexington. A knee injury, surgery and, ahem, transformation from light-heavyweight to heavyweight make it unlikely I'll be able to do so again. In fact, lately, there's rarely a time in which my right knee doesn't hurt at least medium-bad, even after staying off the bike or elliptical machine for a few days. I'm not very happy about that, and neither are the people who have to put up with me sometimes. Then I learned about something rotten that happened to Tito Pineiro, and it sorta put a halt to my Perpetual Whine Machine. Sunday morning, I'll be wishing that I could join the 1,000 people setting off on 13.1 mile or 12 kilometer jaunts in one of the most beautiful places in the world. More than that, though, I'll be wishing that Sergeant First Class Augusto "Tito" Pineiro was among them.