Wounded veterans and Boston Marathon bombing survivors met Thursday in Boston to share their stories of strength and resilience.
Marc Fucarile, who lost his leg in the marathon bombings, said he was inspired by the veterans' stories and honored to meet them.
"They knew what they were risking when they signed up, and that's amazing to me," the 34-year-old from Stoneham said.
A dozen military veterans who have undergone amputations gathered at a Boston hotel to meet 11 marathon amputees as part of an effort by a Chicago-area nonprofit called Operation Warrior Wishes. Thursday night, they planned to go together to the New England Patriots' home season opener against the New York Jets.
"I have never met a stronger group than the wounded warriors and the victims of the marathon bombing," Mayor Tom Menino said. "They are the most courageous and resilient folks we have."
Fucarile chatted with some of the veterans he had just met as if he had known them all his life, even giving them Boston Strong wrist bands.
"They gave me encouragement to work harder," he said. "Some of these guys have it way worse than me, and if they can make it, then so can I."
Veteran Michael Fox of San Diego, a 28-year-old who lost both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in November 2011, said the veterans and marathon victims are like-minded people in similar situations.
"You have to keep a sense of humor," he said. "It keeps your morale up and helps keep you going. If we can give them any inspiration, it's a bonus."
The founders of Operation Warrior Wishes, Craig Steichen, 55, and his son Matt, 29, went on a quest last year to bring wounded vets to football games at 32 NFL stadiums in 17 weeks. Craig Steichen said they met their goal, and even picked up a world record in the meantime for game attendance.
But with the Patriots game Thursday, Steichen said, the nonprofit was interested in not only bringing wounded vets, but getting them together with marathon amputees.
Mery Daniel, a 31-year-old medical school graduate who lost part of her left leg in the marathon bombings, said that while marathon amputees didn't enlist to fight a war, they were exposed to the same kind of violence.
"We share now a common bond," said Daniel, who lives in Boston. "We share similar stories and similar injuries."
Operation Warrior Wishes will be collecting donations on its website between Sept. 12 and Sept. 22. The donations will be divided between the nonprofit and The One Fund, which benefits marathon victims.
Chris Claude, a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran who lives in Blakeslee, Pa., said meeting with marathon amputees would be his chance to provide the kind of support he got after the amputation of his right leg above the knee following a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. He also likes the idea of the amputees coming out on the field together.
"It's another way for people in the crowd to see the human spirit can't be broken," he said.