HOPKINGTON, Mass. – “He’s running with me,” said Melissa Gibbons, “I already asked him.”
It was April 18, Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, Marathon Monday for the rest of the world; for Gibbons, a specialist with the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 101st Finance Detachment, it was both.
“The day of the marathon  was the first time I ever ran 26.2 [miles],” said Gibbons, as she stretched while she and her fellow runners waited for the start of this year’s marathon.
“I did it,” said Gibbons, “it was extremely physically hard.”
And painful; but while she was in Iraq, she and some of the Soldiers she was serving with, set a goal of running the Boston Marathon when they returned home.
“We got home at the end of March,” said Gibbons “I ran it in April.”
It was later that night, after the marathon, that Gibbons received the message that is causing her to run the marathon this year.
“There had been an accident overseas, there was an incident,” said Gibbons, “There had been a KIA and the KIA was Barrett.”
On April 19, 2010, Sgt. Robert Barrett, Company A, 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, died from injuries he received during an improvised explosive device detonation while on a dismounted patrol south of the Kabul International Airport; it was Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts and Marathon Monday for the rest of the world.
Gibbons had served with Barrett in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Honor Guard. Together they marched in President Obama’s inauguration ceremony as well as provided funeral honors for many servicemen.
“People can’t forget about him,” said Gibbons, “it’s been a year and he was a good friend of mine.”
And so Gibbons, who returned home after serving in Iraq with bad knees and shins, is running this year’s marathon for Barrett.
“I have a shirt made,” said Gibbons, “it’s one of those things between me and him.”
It is a simple black shirt; on the front in two rows is printed in red letters, “Sgt. Robert Barrett, KIA 04-19-10.” Above his name to the right are two gold crossed cannons, the symbol of the artillery. On the back is a color photo of Barrett; above the picture is printed “In Memory Of America’s Fallen Hero” and below it reads ”Boston Marathon 2011.”
Gibbons wore the shirt as she ran.
It was a private tribute … one Soldier running to keep the memory of her buddy alive. But as she ran, something happened …
“Everyone was asking about my shirt,” said Gibbons, “Asking who he was.”
When she ran close to the crowd, people were able to read her shirt.
“People were screaming for Sgt. Barrett,” said Gibbons, “This whole thing was Barrett and the people, the cheer you on the whole way.”
It took her nearly five hours to run the course.
“I’m in so much pain,” said Gibbons after she crossed the finish line, “but I did it for him, so I feel all right.”
While most people spend the day after the marathon recovering, Gibbons spent the day visiting Barrett … in the Bourne National Veteran’s Cemetery.