Lexington resident runs part of 500 for the Fallen for gold star children

May 25, 2016

By Al Gentile

The term “gold star” usually means something good has happened. For Gold Star families these symbols mean something entirely different; it represents a family member killed in action or from wounds sustained in the line of duty.

“You leave them and you just never come back,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Leo McGonagle, of Diamond Road. “They essentially paid a blank check to the nation and paid for it with their lives.”

McGonagle, who served for 21 years in the U.S. Army, is running in the 500 for the Fallen relay race which stretches from Concord to Arlington, Virginia, beginning on May 26 and finishing on Memorial Day, May 30. McGonagle, who will be running the almost 5-mile stretch from the Captain Parker Statue in Lexington Center to Arlington Center, has raised nearly $1,200 for the charity.

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which is organizing the race, aims to support the children of fallen service members by offering them college scholarships and assistance with other college-related expenses.

Brittany Marshall, program manager for the foundation, said the issues facing these families are widespread. The foundation’s goal is to give these families a valuable boost to continue their lives following their loss.

“A college education is the most important gift we can give to the children of our fallen patriots. Nearly 20,000 dependent children have been left behind by troops killed in the line of military duty over the past 35 years,” Marshall said. “Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation works to find each and every one of these children with the intent to give them the future they deserve.”

McGonagle, who is now executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, said the support he has garnered so far has been incredible.

His major fundraising began when he sent a Facebook message to an old friend from high school explaining what he was doing. The friend's father served in Marine Corps and had recently passed away. Moved by the message, this person shared the post, and people began donating.

McGonagle reached his original goal of raising $1,000 in just a few days, and now he hopes to raise $1,500.

“One simple email and a Facebook message has yielded nearly $1,200,” McGonagle said. “I wasn’t really looking to break the bank. It shows the support for whom the charity benefits.”

During his service, he was a part of the Army Corps of Engineers and a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School. He led soldiers during peace-keeping missions for the United States in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s and in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.