CAMP PENDLETON SOUTH, Calif. — Highly trained U.S. Marines completed an important mission at Camp Pendleton on Friday. Reconnaissance Marines competed in the 14th annual Recon Challenge that honors the fallen.
“The worst thing that can happen is to have your child be forgotten. As a Recon community, they will never be forgotten,” said Diane Homm.
Homm's son, SSgt. Caleb Medley, died in a 2013 skydiving training exercise in Paris, California.
“He went out for a typical day of jumping, and never came home,” said Sandy Foster.
Foster's son, Msgt. Randy Messineo, competed in honor of Medley. He served with Caleb and has been close to his family ever since.
“He’s all heart. Any opportunity he has to do the right thing, he does it,” said Foster.
Randy and his teammate are one of 36 teams competing in the annual challenge at Camp Pendleton to honor fallen Recon Marines.
“We come from Boston and there's a 26-mile run called the Boston Marathon. And that's a piece of cake compared to what these guys do,” said Foster.
As Recon Marines, they've been training throughout their careers to develop the skills they need to tackle some of the most grueling events in the world this challenge delivers.
“Families always tell us, ‘You hug me just like my son hugged me’ or things like that. And those are the type of moments through this challenge that really drive us like the pain of moving 25.64 miles, gaining 3,564 feet of elevation in a single movement, conducting 10 events, disassembling 240 underwater, 2K ocean fan at 5:30 in the morning, it all pairs into comparison to what these families have sacrificed,” said GySgt. Dante Collins.
He planned the event but he's also competed in the past.
“We've got the name on our back, when we're doing it, we're representing the family. My tiredness, my pain is nothing compared to what the families have gone through,” said Collins. “I would do this challenge 10 times in a row if it would bring those guys back.”
As Marines push through the physical and emotional pain, so do the Gold Star Families who are on the sidelines seeing another side of their hero.
“He was always a Marine but first and foremost a father when he was with us, and like a brother and good friend with his teammates and also a leader and just a kick-ass Marine,” said Hanitua Teai, Msgt. Tamatea Teai’s daughter.
During the competition, the grief had been sidelined, for many, it felt like the weight of the pain had been lifted to allow room to heal.
“As much as it sucks, it's very clear, we're never alone in any of it,” said Teai.
On Thursday, Brother Recon unveiled a statue of Medley at the Fallen Memorial at Camp Pendleton.
WATCH RELATED: Preparing for battle: Marines and Sailors participate in unique training at Camp Pendleton (Dec 2022):