11/26/2012, 1:30pm PST

Wounded warriors plan to compete in marathon

Nov. 26, 2012
For immediate release

Mark Soto wants to help heroes help themselves. So the executive director of Battle for Veterans has helped bring several wounded warriors to the 30th annual California International Marathon to raise awareness of the challenges veterans face.

Josh Hotaling has eight plates and 40 screws in his head after being kicked by a mule during a Marines Mule Packing Course in 2010. A year later, he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan and wound up losing his legs, a testicle, his right thumb and parts of two fingers.

He plans to compete in the marathon on Sunday, using a crank chair to complete the 26.2-mile journey from Folsom to the state Capitol.

The race begins at 7 a.m.

“I’m pumped to be coming out,” said Hotaling, a Sacramento native who graduated from Capital Christian High School in 2005. “It’s the closest to running I could do.

“It sounds like a good course to me. It’s going to be cool.”

Hotaling also stood security under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama at Camp David before suffering his injuries.

Ask Hotaling how he’s overcome so many challenges – he underwent 17 surgeries on his legs and several on his hand — and he mentions his sense of humor and a focus on what needs to be done.

“I find humor in everything,” said Hotaling, who received the Purple Heart. “It took a little while to get used to it (his injuries).  I just said, ‘What do I have to do?’ You start overcoming it.”

Soto marvels at Hotaling’s resolve.

“He’s got a great outlook on life,” Soto said. “It’s really inspirational.”

Marcus Haney, also a Marine, was shot in the right leg during combat operations in Afghanistan last June. The former Granite Bay High School football and baseball player, who underwent surgeries in Germany and San Diego, plans to run in the CIM’s Relay as part of a team that includes his father, brother-in-law and cousin.

But nerve damage will make that challenging.

“You almost have to learn to run in a new way,” said Haney, who also received the Purple Heart. “Any muscles in your leg that help you balance, the nerves don’t work very well.

“I don’t really feel my foot when I run. It’s kind of like my foot’s asleep.”

Haney said he didn’t immediately realize he’d been shot.

“I started losing a lot of blood quickly,” he said. “I got light-headed. I started putting a tourniquet on my leg. I was taken away in a Medevac helicopter.

“Once I was shot, my goal was to compete in this thing … I think it’s going to be inspiring.

“My life goal is to help out wounded veterans. A lot of veterans kind of get overlooked.
I wanted to give back. I hope I can give half of what I’ve received.”

Soto said the idea behind his organization is to remind everyone veterans need our help.

“The thing we were hoping to accomplish more than anything with CIM involvement is just keeping awareness going,” he said. “Our military veterans deserve and need and require our help. There’s only so much the government can do.

“Keep momentum and education going. Veterans Day passes and Memorial Day passes but we want to keep it always going.

“Freedom is not free. We should be really thankful for the soldiers and Marines who go beyond and have sacrificed and died for us.”

The CIM is put on by the Sacramento Running Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

Other SRA events include the recently concluded Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon, the Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3 and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.

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