The Ironman race isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes training and perseverance to finish one… that perseverance is present in Marine veteran Mike Ergo. He runs Ironman races to honor fallen Marines…including a friend he lost in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.
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Then Cpl Mike Ergo was in the 1/8 – 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment – on a deployment to Fallujah on July 20, 2004. His close friend, Cpl Todd Godwin, died that day in a battle that killed 21 Marines of their unit. They had been together since 2003 in their first deployment with the 26th MEU. Godwin was serving as a scout sniper on the day he died, as Ergo had stayed with the Infantry. The battle was described as one of the ”bloodiest fighting and intense urban combat since Vietnam” – the Second Battle of Fallujah and Operation Phantom Fury. And Cpl Mike Ergo was not just dealing with the loss of his best friend, he was battling the ghosts of war as well.
At a memorial service for his friend in 2005 at Camp LeJeune, Ergo told the Marine Corps Times that he was on the verge of tears as he took his friend’s parents, Kathy and Bill Godwin, on a tour around the base. They loved Mike and found him a caring individual. He ultimately left the Corps when his enlistment was complete. That’s when the ghosts of war caught up with him, as they do with so many of our service members.
At first, I drowned my sorrows in drugs and alcohol,” Ergo told Marine Corps Times in July.
But one day, in 2012, he went on a run. The first in a long time. Something began to click.
“I started feeling safe in my own body again,” Ergo said.
One foot in front of the other. Like on a physical training run. Like on a battalion hump. Like in a road race. Keep a pace, keep moving forward.Todd South at Marine Corps Times (you can read more about Cpl Godwin at the link)
According to MCT, Mike went to his first Ironman event in 2014 to just watch. Soon he began to participate – first a half-Ironman, then a full. On July 25, 2021 in Delaware, Ohio’s Ironman, Mike Ergo carried an American flag with a streamer that honored his friend Todd Godwin. He gave that flag and streamer to Godwin’s parents after the race. Since his first race, Ergo has participated in 5 half Ironman races and 4 full Ironman races.
The full Ironman swim-cycle-run races encompass 104.6 miles. The World Ironman Championship race is held in Kona, Hawaii, a race in which Mike has participated. In his first race, he wore a jersey with the names of 21 Marines from the 1/8 who died in Fallujah, and another 8 of his unit who died in other battles. He has found a purpose again, one that brings love and honor to the Gold Star families of the fallen.
”When I’m running I’ll have a few thoughts. It’s a journey. The mental game is sometimes I’ll be processing the trauma. Sometimes processing grief, sometimes it gets really dark. Sometimes it’s ‘awww’ my legs really hurt…I think, ‘what can I cling to? Ok, my legs hurt, that means I have legs, that means I’m alive…
I think of what Todd would be saying to me when running. It’s helped me reconnect with these guys that we’ve lost.”Mike Ergo to Marine Corps Times
We think Todd Godwin would be proud of his friend Mike, for overcoming, for finding purpose in the midst of chaos. And especially for honoring the fallen. Semper Fidelis, Mike Ergo.
Featured photo: screenshot of Mike Ergo’s special jersey.
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