A family adult friend pulled up in a car alongside then 17-year-old Seamus Donahue, who was in the middle of a cross-country workout.
“It’s an emergency,” the woman said.
When Seamus saw the military van outside the Donahues’ Fort Bragg, N.C., home, he thought his sister had been busted for downloading illegal movies.
“I walk in smiling, thinking she got arrested,” recalled Seamus.
The smile was wiped off his face as soon as he looked at his mother.
“I knew instantly,” said Seamus.
His mother’s first words to him: “Your father’s now an angel.”
Donahue’s father, Army Maj. Michael Donahue, had been killed on Sept. 16, 2014 in Kabul, Afghanistan by a suicide car bomber. Michael Donahue, the father of three, was 41.
At the Alaska Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, Seamus ran the second marathon in his father’s honor, this time carrying a large United States flag, all 26.2 miles, finishing in 4 hours, 37 minutes.
He ran the marathon as part of the “wear blue: run to remember” organization, which honors men and women who have served in the military.
“I never really had an issue (carrying the flag),” said Seamus, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “Looking at the red, white and blue, the stars and stripes, it got rid of my pain. I put it above my head and took it step by step.”
One of Seamus’ fondest memories of his dad was a trip he and his younger sister, Bailey, took with their father barely a month before he was killed. They traveled from North Carolina to Boston and back in their dad’s Dodge Ram pickup. In New York City, Major Donahue saw a street vendor selling hats and he asked Bailey, “Hey, you want a hat?”
Bailey said she did. Major Donahue negotiated a price and bought his daughter a chapeau.
“It was spontaneous,” said Seamus. “It was so cool.”
Seamus is a former Eagle Scout. One year, as part of his Eagle Scout volunteer work, Seamus and his father placed American flags at Arlington National Cemetery grave sites. Like Seamus, his father was a runner, and they knocked off the Army Ten-Miler one year in Washington D.C.
Seamus was looking at pictures from the Army Ten-Miler recently. Father and son are running side by side, his father smiling, the Arlington National Cemetery in the backdrop.
Said Seamus, “Who would have thought that five years later he’d be in that same field.”
Asked why he runs in his father’s honor, Seamus said, “In my eyes, it keeps him alive.”