Throughout the day, photos and videos popped up on the Facebook pages of numerous Flower Mound residents as they spotted runners carrying flags around the community from sunrise to sunset.
The event, an inaugural race in honor of veterans, drew 20 runners including Jake Murphy, a veteran injured when an IED exploded, causing him to lose portions of both legs.
On the last segment of several trips around town, Murphy rode his bicycle equipped with hand peddles as a crowd gathered to cheer him on.
The Flower Mound Fire Department brought out two fire engines equipped with extended ladders to form an arch over Lakeside Parkway, In the center hung an American flag as Murphy drove through with another U.S. flag attached to his bicycle.
Murphy served as an Army Ranger, said his friend and co-worker David Green, a veteran who served in the Army for 18 years. Green had originally been asked to run but, due to injuries he suffered during a recent trip, he couldn’t. So he asked Murphy to take his place.
“I’m so proud of him,” Green said as Murphy swiftly peddled by on Lakeside Parkway. Murphy, he said, is a graduate of West Point who is currently working on a masters in business administration with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Murphy works out daily before heading to his job with Verizon in Irving, Green said, adding he interviewed him and knew immediately Murphy was the man for the job. Murphy apparently turned down job offers from other major corporations to take the one with Verizon. A Flower Mound resident, Murphy is married to Lisa and the couple have a son, Nolan, named after the Texas Rangers baseball legend.
Murphy also was instrumental in caring for Gabriel, a service dog who became ill. Gabriel was assigned to a fellow soldier, Derek McConnell, who news reports indicate saved Jake’s life while they were serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. McConnell passed away in 2013 due to injuries he sustained in combat before he ever met Gabriel.
In a twist of fate, Jake was granted his friend’s service dog through 4Paws for Ability. Gabriel, Green said, later suffered a serious illness after swimming in a lake.
The effort to save Gabriel went viral and, soon, an estimated $35,000 was raised to help with the German Shepherd’s veterinarian bills. Gabriel survived and the remainder of the donations are being used to help other veterans, Green said.
“He’s phenomenal,” Green said of his friend, describing him as the quiet type who is not prone to seek the limelight. “I didn’t want to pressure him to take my place” in the Veterans Day event, Green said. But, Jake being Jake, he immediately agreed to help.
Emma Lewis was one of the runners participating in the day-long run.
“I think it’s important to honor the veterans,” she said. “It’s a really great way to get people’s attention – not only honoring them one day of the year, but every day of the year.”
Matthew Jesko, a fellow Flower Mound High School student, did not know Emma before the race. The two handed the U.S. flag from one to the other during the relay.
“Almost all of my family is in the military,” Jesko said. “I thought it would be a great way to show respect.”
Officials said three veterans were among the 20 who signed up to take part in the inaugural event.
The daylong tribute originated with John Scully, a Flower Mound resident who began carrying the American flag while running after 9/11 in tribute to the men and women serving the U.S.
The day’s event ended in Lakeside DFW where Normandy Homes donated the use of one of their model homes for the evening celebration. State Rep. Tan Parker stopped in to chat with the runners as did Mayor Tom Hayden, who was instrumental in setting up the event after seeing Scully run with the flag several months earlier.
As Green watched the day’s events unfold and saw the many residents who went out of their way to pay respects to veterans, he said it made him proud to be a resident of Flower Mound.
“I love that Flower Mound supports all of its residents,” he said, adding that neighbors offered to help his wife Kristin and their four children while he was away in Afghanistan on his third deployment.
“You meet people like Jake, like John Scully all over Flower Mound,” he said. “It’s a great place to live.”