Wounded warriors Ivan Castro and Karl Hinett will run two consecutive marathons — the Boston Marathon and the Virgin Money London Marathon — this month to raise money and awareness for combat veterans suffering from mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder.
The two are partnering with the Heads Together foundation, a veteran’s charity focused on mental health that was founded last year by Britain’s Prince Harry, Prince William, and Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge.
Both Castro, 49, and Hinett, who is 30, sustained serious injuries in Iraq and turned to physical endurance challenges like marathons to rebuild their lives. “A lot of military veterans feel the stigma (of mental health issues), and it’s impacting in a negative way,” Hinett said in an interview with Fox News. “The whole idea is to remove the stigma, to make them aware that it’s OK to say ‘I need help.’”
Castro, who is blind, was a long-serving member of the U.S. Army, having first joined in 1987. He has served all across the globe, including in both Gulf wars and Afghanistan. It was on a rooftop in the town of Yusufiyah, Iraq, in 2006 that a mortar round took his sight and nearly killed him. Two other soldiers with Castro did not survive the attack.
Hinett, a British soldier, was badly burned after his tank was hit with a firebomb in Basra, Iraq, in 2005. An iconic photo of him bailing out of the burning tank, himself engulfed in flames, became a lasting image of the war.
Hinett endured more than 50 surgeries for his injuries at Selly Oak Hospital, now Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, England. It was there he decided to become a marathon runner to try to give back to the staff of the hospital who had cared for him. The Boston Marathon on Monday will be his 150th race.
Castro too decided while he was in recovery to become an endurance athlete. Despite not even being able to stand, he made up his mind to run a marathon when he overheard a nurse talking about the Marine Corps Marathon. Since then he has completed 50 marathons, trekked to the South Pole and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, all to raise awareness for veterans.
“I’ve always been someone to like challenges, to push against the tide and prove to others.” Castro told Fox News.
Castro recently retired after 28 years of service. He held his last post as the assistant operations officer/total Army involvement recruiting coordinator at Fort Bragg, N.C., despite his sight impairment. He’s also the author of an autobiography about his experiences, Fighting Blind.
Hinett is working on getting his pilot’s license and wants to have 200 marathons under his belt. Hinett and Castro will run their races tethered to each other. “It’s going to be quite exhausting,” Hinett told Fox News. “The idea of the back-to-back marathons is to raise high awareness.”
“We … survive together.”
Donations to Castro and Hinett’s cause can be made at the Virgin Money Giving site.
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