Marathon hero guardsman awed, honored to receive top medal

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By Antonio Caban

BOSTON-A Massachusetts Army National Guardsman who ran to the aid of victims in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing has become the third person in state history awarded the U.S. Army’s Soldier’s Medal.

During a ceremony in the governor’s office Wednesday morning, Gov. Charlie Baker awarded one of the Army’s highest honors to Staff Sergeant Mark Welch, assigned to the 1060th Transportation Company of Framingham.
The Soldier’s Medal is awarded for acts of heroism in non-combat situations.

“Honored. I feel like throughout my whole career I don’t really deserve anything for what I’ve ever done. It’s just my duty,” Staff Sgt. Welch, an Iraq war veteran, said following the ceremony. “It was an honor to meet the Governor. I’ve met him once before, but in this setting it’s very very nice.”

Welch was resting after participating in the “Tough Ruck” march, which also follows the Marathon route, when the two explosions went off on Boylston Street April 15, 2013.

Welch joined with First Lt. Steve Fiola and 1st Sgt. Bernard Madore to assist victims near the site of the first bombing and pulled away fencing helping to clear a path for first responders.
Fiola and Madore both received their Soldier’s Medals from Baker at the annual First Muster Ceremony in Salem in April.

“I would simply say, on behalf of the people of Massachusetts, how much we appreciate and admire the work that’s done every day by the members of the Guard here in the Commonwealth and how much I appreciate as governor the fact that the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of Defense has recognized for the first time ever three of our members and given them their highest award,” Baker said, as Welch’s family beamed and about a dozen Guard members in dress uniform looked on.

After the ceremony, Welch described the press attention he was getting as “a little weird” and said the honor has changed his life.
“My whole career I’ve never looked for anything different, but now I’m being held to a different standard and it’s definitely weird to me,” Welch said.