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A 96-year-old World War II veteran is hoping to become the oldest Marine to ever complete the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.

Thiele "Fred" Harvey, who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima, is participating in the race with a team of marathoners — Dr. Glenn Paige, Chris Haley and Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Lawrence — who plan to push Harvey across the finish line.

Paige, who has run several Marine marathons, first met Harvey four years ago. The two have talked every week since. 

"We're gonna run 26.2 miles and, hopefully, make him the oldest Marine to cross the finish line in his custom, commemorative wheelchair that will be used in the future by disabled veterans for Marine Corps Marathons," Paige said. 

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Dr. Glenn Paige and T. "Fred" Harvey

The team raised $5,000 to build the special chair, decorated with pictures of Harvey, his war medals and patches, and inscribed with his name. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's marathon went virtual, so Harvey will race with his friends in Fredericksburg, Texas, finishing at the National Museum of the Pacific War.

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"I would have loved to have finished with him at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but the next best thing is his favorite museum here in Fredericksburg," Paige said. 

Harvey said at the museum this summer that he wants people to remember those who sacrificed their lives during World War II. 

"I can talk about the war, and I am going to talk about it as much as I can, because I want the people to remember those buddies of mine that paid with their lives for the life that we have here in the U.S. today," he said. 

Harvey was a private during the fierce five-week battle in early 1945 against dug-in Japanese forces at Iwo Jima. He was awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat. 

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"When his three-man patrol which was sent out to establish contact with the adjoining company was ambushed by heavy fire from an enemy machine gun and one of the men was seriously wounded, Private First Class Harvey dragged the fallen Marine under heavy fire to the shelter of a nearby hole," his citation says. 

"Remaining with the wounded man while his companion went for aid, he held off the hostile forces with his rifle and hand grenades until the arrival of the rescue party. Then, exposing himself to enemy fire and directing accurate heavy fire on the Japanese position, he successfully covered the evacuation of the casualty."

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The marathon this year will be on the 75th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, so the commemorative finishing medal will contain actual black sand collected at the island, as well as filmstrip images of the iconic raising of the flag by victorious Marines.

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