York, PA - One day, during a run, John Crone rounded South Queen Street in York Township and noticed one of the U.S flags that line the road during holidays had toppled over.
Crone, a retired Marine, picked it up and kept running. You don't trample a flag, he explained.
Then a funny thing happened. Passersby seemed to like seeing the guy in the U.S. Marine Corps T-shirt jogging with the stars and stripes. They waved. Drivers honked.
Crone waved back.
"I felt motivated," he said.
About five years later, Crone still runs the same 6-mile loop, and the flag has become permanent equipment. The honks and waves are an energy boost, but Crone said that's not why he's remained a flag runner. It's the
Twenty years in the Marine Corps breeds patriotism, Crone said. Before graduating from what was then York Vo-Tech in 1985, he'd been working at a local McDonald's and trying to figure out what to do with his life. Then, a Marine Corps recruiter came to school.
Crone had always looked up to his brother, who'd made a career of the Marines. So he joined.
"My parents thought I was joking," he said, laughing.
It turned into a 20-year career that took Crone around the world, from Norway to Saudi Arabia to Hawaii. His service helped him obtain a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees and the job he has today working as a program manager for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Somewhere along the way, Crone became a runner. He started with 1 to 11/2 milers with a delayed-entry program that prepared him for his basic training. Before he knew it, he was running in the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., half marathons and 5Ks.
He continues to run now he's living in York Township, his home since returning to the area in 2002. Only now, it's not to fulfill active duty physical fitness requirements.
Around Christmas, the 44-year-old with a military haircut runs in a Santa Claus hat. On July 4, he wears an Uncle Sam hat.
But for every run, Crone grips a U.S. flag in one hand.
He's upgraded from the tiny flag on a wooden stick he'd found along the side of the road that day. Crone runs with a much larger flag on a light, retractable aluminum pole. On occasion, it gets tangled in low-hanging tree limbs, and Crone has to stop to fish it out.
It's the flag he uses as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, the group of motorcyclists that parades to service member funerals. Crone has small flags attached to the rear of one of his two Harleys. His running flag is the one he uses as when he stands in a "flag line" -- the solid wall of red white and blue the Patriot Guard often creates to separate a funeral from protest groups.
Crone is a member of the Dallastown American Legion, and sometimes serves as a master of ceremonies at various military and veterans events in the area.
Also, at most local races -- the Annual YWCA Turkey Trot 5K in downtown York on Thanksgiving or the recent WCO David L. Grove Memorial Run 5K race in John Rudy County Park -- Crone's flag billows above the runners as they head toward the finish line.
For Crone, running with the flag has come to mean more than something to prompt applause to push him toward the finish line.
"I don't run for that reason," he said. "I think about the all the service members overseas and what's going on in Afghanistan."
Marine Corps Marathon
Information about the Marine Corps Marathon can be found at www.marinemarathon.com.
Distributed by MCT Information Services