Band of Sisters

18 runners.

Most wives of Marines.

SHORT STORY

They are running for the family of a Marine Corps officer who was killed in Iraq. Six months ago, Marine Capt. Richard J. Gannon II died in Iraq, leaving behind his wife, Sally, and four children, ages 2 to 12. His death inspired other Marine wives to run Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon for one of their own.

"We want people to recognize that Rick made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and for freedom, but Sally is living with that every single day," said Karen Mendoza, whose husband Ray was deployed with Rick Gannon.

"The memorial services have ended. The cards and mail have slowed down. The thoughts and prayers are still with them, but she's living with [his death] every single day. I think people sometimes forget that, and as Marine Corps wives, we always rally around each other at difficult times."

They call themselves the "Band of Sisters." They come from southern California, Tennessee and Florida. One of them, Amy Morel, is herself a Marine widow. Another is Gannon's sister, Shawna. The only male runner is a Marine who served with Gannon and whose wife is pregnant and unable to run.

Some had run marathons; others hadn't run a mile before they started training. Mendoza vowed never to run a marathon again after she ran the Marine Corps Marathon two years ago, but said she is willing to endure it once more for Sally Gannon.

"If 26.2 miles is the only pain I have to go through, it is very small compared to what Sally and the Gannon family is going through," she said. "I'm supporting great people. I'm running in memory of a great leader. He was a great friend to my husband."

The idea to run the marathon came to the women at Gannon's funeral. Gannon, who died at age 31 and was promoted posthumously to major, was an avid runner. He ran his first marathon at age 9 and ran the Marine Corps Marathon several times. So the group decided running the marathon would be an appropriate way to honor Gannon, support his wife and raise money for a scholarship fund created for the children.

In addition to the Band of Sisters, 30 runners from the U.S. Naval Academy Parents' Club of Kentucky will be running Sunday in Gannon's honor. Some are Midshipmen who knew Gannon when he was stationed at the Naval Academy from 2000 to 2002 and assisted with the women's cross-country team.

-- Kathy Orton

GANNON

Marathon runner, Marine captain was killed in Iraq last spring, leaving behind a wife and four children.