Sid Busch has run a lot of marathons — 190 and counting — but the past 40 have had extra-special meaning for the retired submariner.
Armed Forces Day
President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service in support of the country.On Aug. 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force days.The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under the Department of Defense.Department of Defense
The 67-year-old Goose Creek resident has run those last ones in honor of a soldier killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars and sends the finisher medal to their family, whom he contacts before doing so.
“I’m not doing anything special,” Busch says of running marathons. “They (the fallen veterans and their families) have done all the important stuff.”
He compares the experience of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam.
“I can remember every Friday on the news (during Vietnam), they would give the body count and most Americans ignored it. It became a normal part of life. We’ve fallen into the same thing. Right now, as long as people can go to the mall or watch football games, they’ve forgotten about it. History is repeating itself.”
So Busch, who travels to regional marathons and half-marathons during the year, makes it his mission not only to represent a fallen soldier but also to support the Wounded Warrior Project and the Semper Fi Fund, nonprofit programs to help injured veterans have what’s necessary for fulfilling lives.
It does matter
Alison Malachowski, mother of the late Staff Sgt. Jimmy Malachowski, considers Busch “a hero” and part of her family for his efforts to let people know about her son.
The Marine, who was 25 and an avid runner himself, was killed by an improvised explosive device on March 20, 2011, in Afghanistan.
It was his fourth tour of duty, and he gave his family a chilling prediction before his departure.
“He knew he wasn’t coming back,” recalls Malachowski, who lives in Westminster, Md., noting that other “Gold Star Mothers” have related similar predictions made by their children upon returning to war.
“And he also told me, ‘Mom, I just don’t want people to forget that I ever lived.’ ”
When she relayed that conversation to Busch, he was brought to tears and ran not one, but three, marathons for Jimmy: the Marine Corps Marathon, Air Force Marathon and Baltimore Marathon. Busch and the family met at Arlington National Cemetery to place the medals on his grave.
“At age 25, you’re not supposed to worry about that (people forgetting you),” says Busch. “So we were going to get his name out there.”
Malachowski says the families of fallen soldiers never get over it, even though they may seem like it, but that people remembering helps.
“People think you move on, but it doesn’t get any better with time. It just gets different. You don’t feel joy the same way. Sunrises and sunsets don’t hold the same awe anymore,” she says, adding that the loss of Jimmy is the “nightmare that never goes away.”
“So anytime anyone remembers their name, it helps. Most people don’t want to say anything because they don’t know what to say and they feel uncomfortable. They run away. Not Sid. He runs to you.”
Busch’s sensitivity comes from serving more than 26 years on a submarine in the Navy. He experienced tragedies of his own.
In 1972, when Busch was on a sub doing surveillance of the Soviet fleet, he was awakened by a messenger. The captain wanted to see him in his state room. Busch figured something was wrong with the sonar. It turned out to be way worse than that.
“He told me to sit and said, ‘I don’t know any easy way to tell you this,’ and he handed me the message. I remember reading it and not much after that.”
A drunken driver had killed his wife, Alicia, and 1-year-old son, Seth, in New London, Conn. They were on their way to the doctor’s office for the infant’s routine checkup when they were hit.
Busch, who still trembles and tears up recalling the memory, was distraught and described himself as a “basket case” for the following year.
He never remarried because the event turned him “into a coward.”
Another tragedy struck 29 years later on Sept. 11, 2001, when his cousin, David Gittelson, was killed while working on the 72nd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The two were close. He and Gittelson had run six marathons together. A year before, Gittelson had taken Busch, his mother and brother to eat at Windows on the World, a restaurant on the top floor of the North Tower.
To deal with the pain, Busch ran the six marathons they had run together again.
“I was running marathons before, but after that (attack), I got carried away,” says Busch.
Adventures at sea
Busch has fond memories of serving on submarines, one of which was the Clamagore that was retired at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.
His calling came at an early age growing up in Brooklyn.
“When I was 8 years old, I saw Walt Disney’s version of ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and from that moment on, I wanted to be on submarines,” says Busch. “My whole life was planned by Walt Disney.”
His quarter-century in submarines also spanned the latter decades of the Cold War.
“Two of the fast attacks I was on we did a lot of the Red October stuff, which was pretty exciting. We played games with the Russians. We were in some situations — I’d tell you about it but I’d have to kill you — that were interesting,” says Busch.
“As time goes on, you forget all the bad times and remember all the good times.”
Today, besides working distributing newspapers to carriers at The Post and Courier and traveling most weekends to run half-marathons and marathons, Busch still gets his submarine fix by volunteering at Patriots Point and giving tours of the Clamagore.
“It’s kind of a funny feeling doing that because here she is a museum now and that makes me feel like I’m a million years old,” says Busch, noting the need to raise $3 million to help restore and ultimately save the old sub.
A true patriot
West Ashley resident Charles Mac Knepshield knows Busch from the local Semper Fi Fund Team, which regularly participates in the Cooper River Bridge Run, and calls Busch “the most patriotic person I’ve known.”
He recalls one particular Bridge Run in 2008, when they walked the race with a young Marine named Matt who was recovering from severe wounds suffered in an explosion in Afghanistan.
“His leg was in an external cast made of three metal rings with pins inserted into his bones to keep them stable while healing. Matt walked the complete 6.2 miles of the race course with Sid and myself by his side,” recalls Knepshield.
Busch also vividly remembers the experience, noting that when they were stopped by a TV crew on the Charleston side of the bridge, blood was coming out from where the pins attached through Matt’s skin.
“But all he could talk about during the interviews was getting back to his guys he served with in Afghanistan,” recalls Busch.
“That’s what keeps me going,” says Busch.
“Most of the time, all you see in the media is Lindsay Lohan and how she’s going into another drug rehab program. ... But it’s these guys who really deserve attention.”