(CBS) – He is the ultimate iron man: a retired Marine determined to run into the history books to help service members.
It’s an idea that struck the Mokena man as he sat on a couch last year. He hasn’t stopped racing since, CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports.
Medals hang on Mike Mendoza’s wall. They don’t just represent personal achievement for the retired Marine. The Ironman 70.3 medals symbolize much more.
“A buddy of mine named Steve – he doesn’t have his eyesight,” Mendoza says. “My buddy Eddie, he got hit in the chest with an RPG – he doesn’t have any arms.”
So, he competes for men and women wounded serving the country — like he was in Iraq. He was injured in 2006 by a grenade.
Mendoza eventually recovered, went back to Iraq as a Marine and later, a State Department employee. He’s a Purple Heart and Navy Cross recipient.
But struggling with PTSD issues of his own, Mendoza wanted to do more. Then it struck him: attempt to break the record for the most 70.3 races completed in a year.
He’s tied the record at 23. This weekend, he’ll breach it. And he does it for the Semper Fi Fund, which helps injured service members and their families.
“Since they assisted me, it’s my turn to give back,” he says.
Mendoza calls the competitions therapeutic. His goal is to raise $1,000 per race. It’s now a full-time effort – one his wife, Kelly, and kids fully support.
Mendoza’s record won’t become official until he submits all his completed races to the Guinness Book of World Records, which he’ll do later this year.
For more information about his efforts, click here.