Wounded Green Beret veteran's Boston Marathon dreams deferred, but hope remains
Days after a Taliban sniper’s shot left Staff Sgt. Kevin Flike bedridden and awaiting what would become six separate surgeries, he made himself a promise: he’d recover and he’d finish a marathon.
It took nearly nine years for Flike, 35, to get to where he could make good on that promise. The former Green Beret was among the 31,000 entrants in the 124th Boston Marathon who were scheduled to run the race April 10, until the coronavirus pandemic made holding the event out of the question, for now.
“I think for a lot of people, the wind has been taken out of their sails, and it has for me,” Flike said in a phone call Tuesday. “It’s been pretty devastating for me.”
Flike’s story underscores one of the many ways the pandemic has interrupted life in the U.S., were 4,226 coronavirus cases have been confirmed or are under investigation, and 75 have died, the World Health Organization reported as of Tuesday. The unreported number of infections is generally considered to be much higher.
The virus has led to sporting event cancellations across the country. Boston Marathon officials have rescheduled the run for Sept. 14.
Flike said he remains hopeful that better times are ahead.
“We’re going to get through this,” he said. “I think adversity is given to you so you can be better.”
Flike, a recipient of the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars, is very familiar with adversity.
In 2011, the sniper shot Flike as he cleared a valley with Afghan and U.S. commandos. The bullet tore through his stomach. The surgeries required the removal of 20% of his colon, and left 40 inches of scars, as shown in the documentary “Wounded By War,” which Flike produced.
His left leg was paralyzed and had atrophied to the size of his arm, he told Stars and Stripes last spring, but an experimental treatment helped restore his ability to move that leg, signaled at first by a lone muscle twitch.
A former college athlete, he’d previously measured his physical prowess in 300-pound bench press repetitions and 5-mile run times, but months after being shot, “I needed help putting on my socks.”
When he felt that twitch, it “was like the greatest achievement in my life,” he said. Soon, sweat pouring down his face, he was able to fully extend his leg, he said.
Flike said he remains in chronic pain. But he persevered through his rehabilitation and overcame a prescription pill addiction, he said. In 2016, he earned degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Flike is now a Green Beret Foundation board member and works for Threat Stack, a Boston-based cybersecurity firm. As measures to stop the virus’ spread continue, the father of two has been spending more time with his two young children while working from his home in Boston. Once the initial disappointment of the marathon’s postponement passed, Flike said he took comfort from a little perspective.
“I thought, ‘how lucky am I? I’m still healthy. I still have my family,’” he said.
With more time to train, he might be able to run faster in the marathon this September, he added.
“My story is all about overcoming adversity. If I just had to train for it and run it, it would be easy,” Flike said. “I’ve waited 8 1/2 years, what’s another six months?”
Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland contributed to this report.