By Danny Schrafel
For United States Marine Corps Captain James Ferguson, this past weekend wasn’t just a Marine Corps reunion. It was a family reunion.
“That amazing experience we had on our deployment made us a family, and we’re still family, and families have reunions,” Ferguson said.
That band of brothers, 80 of them from the India 312 battalion, marched in formation, chanting Marine Corps cadence, as they participated in the one-mile fun run of the eighth annual Christopher G. Scherer “I Did the Grid” race in East Northport on Saturday. They came to East Northport from a fifth-anniversary retreat they held in Southold – an exercise in healing.
“It’s important to stay connected with the family,” Ferguson said.
Their presence brought comfort to Tim Scherer, Chris Scherer’s father and organizer of the race. Tim Scherer said he hadn’t seen a cadence march since Nov. 5, 2004 – the day his son earned the title “Marine” at Parris Island.
“It was kind of neat,” he said.
Ever since Chris died in service of his country in the summer of 2007, felled by the bullet of an enemy sniper, Tim Scherer, his family and the members of “Team Chris” have organized a run through the streets of East Northport. This year, 1,378 runners participated – the most ever.
All funds raised support the Semper Fi Fund, which funds Christopher G. Scherer Scholarships at Northport High School, and the Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer Leave No Marine Behind Project, which sends requested supplies to Chris’ fellow Marines in the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, as well as care packages to local soldiers serving overseas and service dogs for returning veterans.
Frank Corrigan, 30, an East Northport native, completed the twisting, turning 4-mile route of the competitive run in just under 21 minutes and was greeted by Northport High School running phenom Mike Brannigan.
Corrigan said this was his first time doing “the grid;” his family had done so for several years. The event, he said, is a homecoming of sorts and a chance to pay tribute to a friend, classmate and hometown hero who gave his life in service to his country.
“I was thinking about it out on the run – wondering how I would feel,” he said, noting his younger brother is enlisted in the Air Force.
Corrigan is likely to join his family in running the inaugural Suffolk County Marathon, which will serve as the pinnacle of the inaugural six-race Suffolk County veterans running series, which the Scherer run launched.
The Suffolk County Marathon is Sept. 13. County Executive Steve Bellone, who ran the Scherer race, said about 1,800 runners have signed up for the marathon. The goal is 5,000.
After the race was done, the fallen honored and a wreath laid at the base of a tree planted eight years ago in Chris Scherer’s memory outside the Pulaski Road Elementary School, there was one last bit of business at hand. South Huntington Public Library Director Joseph Latini sang one of the songs played at Chris Scherer’s funeral – “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” by Flogging Molly, as he did in the previous two years. The lyrics are inscribed on Chris’ tombstone.
But this year, one of the Flogging Mollies joined Latini – guitarist Dennis Casey, of Greenlawn.
It all came from an encounter after a gig at The Paramount last November, where Tim Scherer told Casey the story of his son. Friday night before the run, Casey was at Scherer’s house, working out the song.
“I was blown away,” Casey said. “He texted me a picture of his son’s tombstone, and then I sent it to everyone in the band, and they were speechless.”
One line in the lyric – “Wherever I am you'll always be/More than just a memory” – rings particularly true in their memories of Chris.
“That’s how we live our lives now – just thinking about him,” Tim Scherer said.