SDI’s Hardwick Goes the Distance. Twice!

  • SDI Admin

Actions always speaks louder than words, and Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) Teaching Assistant and Quality Control Specialist Troy Hardwick personally honored the brave men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces through his recent actions by going above and beyond the call of duty.

Troy recently ran the Honoring Our Heroes Half Marathon, but he didn’t just lace up his running shoes and complete the course. He ran the half-marathon in full combat gear which included an AR-15 rifle and 45-pound backpack; and immediately after crossing the finish line, he turned back and ran the course in reverse, to find the last runner. Upon reaching that person, he accompanied them to the finish line to symbolize the American military credo that “we leave no one behind.”

After he crossed the finish line for the second time, a uniformed officer removed a flag from Troy’s backpack which he had carried during the race. The flag was formally presented to Ray Horton, a WWII veteran who served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines, and Air Force veteran and Heroes Marathon founder Bob Gravley.

“I went in with the intent of honoring our service members — past, present and future — and with a hope of inspiring people to get out and run, jog or walk the event,” said Hardwick. “What I myself gained from the experience was very profound and unexpected.”

“My inspiration from the event was a young lady named Hannah Monroe from Salem, Mo., who has cerebral palsy,” explains Hardwick. “She stayed ahead of me for the first six miles of the course. I eventually caught her and when her pace could no longer match mine, she asked to hold my hand…..she said I was her inspiration and she was not going to quit. So I held her hand for the next few miles, through the hills and cold, blowing winds. Some walkers caught us around mile 10 and said they would watch her while I completed the race, as it was known I was going to turn around at the finish and return to the last runner. My race continued and I finished around four hours…and turned around. I dropped my gear (and weapon) off with a police sergeant and headed back to the last runner. Roughly two- to three miles back was Hannah, struggling to make it 100-200 feet before having to rest and stretch. So we paced her to the finish line. At the entrance to the finish area, where the flagged ropes begin, she asked us to let her go so she could finish the race unassisted. Hannah was able to run across the finish line and was the hero of the marathon. She inspired those who had set out to inspire.”

An Army veteran of 20 years, Troy served most of years overseas with deployments in Macedonia with the United Nations, Bosnia with NATO, one year in Afghanistan; five years in Germany; four years in South Korea; and three years in Okinawa, Japan. While stateside, he served two years at Fort Stewart, Ga., and spent three years as an instructor at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He retired from active service in 2013, and is currently an active member of the volunteer Missouri Defense Force which serves to protect citizens in case of natural disaster or civil unrest.

Congratulations, Troy! We’re proud you’re on the SDI team.

For more information on Heroes Marathon, visit


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