LYNN — With every mile Glenn Dunnigan, Cullen Dunnigan, and Kenny Runyan ran during the Marine Corps Marathon last Sunday, the memory of two fallen marines kept them going.
This wasn’t the first time Lynn Police Lt. Glenn Dunnigan and his son Cullen ran the full 26.2 miles in Washington D.C., but it was the first time they brought Lynn Police Officer Kenny Runyan to run with them. The three men ran in honor of Lynn natives Corporal James “Jim” Jonah and Lance Corporal Eric Hopkins, who both died this year.
“I’ve done 12 marathons and that one was the worst I have done as far as weather,” said Glenn Dunnigan. “There were times when it was pouring pelting rain in 80 degrees. I looked down at my shirt and saw their names and told myself to keep going.”
Dunnigan said he first ran the “Marathon of the Monuments” in 2002, inspired by his father, who served in the Navy for 22 years. Runyan, 30, was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, serving in the Marine Reserves from 2009 to 2016. He was activated for deployment in 2011, he said.
The Dunnigans and Runyan ran as members of Team NECHV (New England Center & Home for Veterans), one of the nation’s largest private community-based providers of human services to veterans who are experiencing challenges following their military service. There were extra numbers for runners, Dunnigan said, so he invited his Lynn Police colleague to join him and his son.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a while and just never got around to it, so when Glenn called me it lined up perfectly,” said Runyan. “He knew what being in the Marine Corps meant to me.”
“There were moments on the course that I was like ‘what am I doing in the pouring rain with this pain in my legs and my muscles cramping up,'” Runyan continued. “Then, I look up and see all the names along the route and I see other people out there running, like the double amputee right near me, and it motivates you to keep going and not give up on yourself or anyone else.”
Throughout the run, the only thing that was heard was the sound of feet running, said Dunnigan. In most marathons, he gets amped up with the sound of crowds cheering, but during this race his main motivation was seeing the photos of all the soldiers who died or were killed in action.
“I looked up and saw a photo of Capt. Jennifer Harris from Swampscott,” said Dunnigan. “I was touched inside and it kept me moving. I remember thinking ‘all right, now I know why I am out here.'”
Thinking of Lynn’s fallen marines, Jonah and Hopkins, was one of the main reasons Runyan was able to finish the 26.2 miles, he said.
Dunnigan said he grew up with Jonah and his family, and later found out he had mutual friends with Hopkins. Jonah was the older neighbor who always took care of everyone, he said.
“When I was at Jim’s funeral, all the neighborhood families were back together and I got the idea then,” said Dunnigan. “I didn’t know Eric personally, but I knew we had to run for him, too. It gives you more incentive and drive when you know you have to finish for somebody. Our training wasn’t the best, but we both said we have to keep pushing for these fallen marines.”
Eileen Jonah said she knows her brother would have been proud to know that Dunnigan ran in his name. He died of a heart attack in March at the age of 58, she said, but before that, he battled with addiction issues for most of his life.
“It is such a struggle,” Jonah said. “You watch someone really try and turn things around over and over and when they relapse it is heartbreaking for the whole family, but especially for the person trying to turn things around for themselves. My mother has now outlived her son and that is especially painful … Being a marine was very much part of Jim’s identity. There was a brethren formed from that and it definitely became part of who he was.”
Jill Avery, a close friend of Eileen Jonah, said it was a bonding experience for them to have both of their brothers honored like this. Her brother, Hopkins, died on Oct. 1 due to complications from an injury he suffered during a military training exercise when he was young and following a lengthy battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was 45 years old.
“It’s still very fresh to all of us and we haven’t had a lot of time to process what happened,” Avery said. “Eric would never talk about his injury and I was in high school when it happened. Ever since then, he suffered with tremors and nightmares. It changed who he was. He wanted to be a marine for life, but couldn’t go back with his injury.”
Hopkins and Jonah will continue to be honored on Sunday, Nov. 3 at a fundraiser hosted by the Dunnigans. From noon to 5 p.m. at The Lazy Dog in Lynn, raffles and commemorative t-shirts from Harrington’s Trophy will be sold and 10 percent food and beverage sales will go directly to the NECHV. There is also an online fundraising page with all proceeds going to the veterans center.
“My whole family is so thankful they chose to honor him in this way,” said Avery. “He would’ve been honored to know they did that for him.”