High school football coach’s son injured in Boston Marathon blasts, but military training helps keep family together

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally
Aaron and Alan Hern on a family vacation — Facebook
Aaron and Alan Hern on a family vacation — Facebook

Alan Hern is a strong man, and a football coach of principle. Now his entire universe is being challenged due to an event that has forever changed one of America’s proudest cities.

When two explosions erupted on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Hern, who serves as the football coach at Martinez (Ca.) Alhambra High, was there. In fact, he and his two children, son Aaron and daughter Abigail, were just feet away from where the first bomb exploded at the Marathon Sports location on Boylston.

According to this terrific feature by MaxPreps, the Herns were there to cheer on Aaron’s mother and Alan’s wife, Katherine Hern, who was running her first Boston marathon.

Katherine Hern was 200 yards from the finish line when the bomb exploded, with her son standing by with a camera to snap congratulatory pictures. Alan and Abigail were feet away. Alan and Abigail Hern escaped unharmed, as did Katherine, who didn’t see her family members before the chaos ensued as she neared the finish line.

Aaron was not so lucky. The 11-year-old was struck by shrapnel from the bomb in his left thigh. His father found him laying on the street with his wounds, but was unable to accompany Aaron in the ambulance as he was rushed to the hospital. He was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, but even figuring out where Aaron was sent was a challenge.

Eventually, after the family arrived at Boston Children's, they were relieved to find that Aaron had undergone successful surgery and was upgraded to stable condition. While he has a struggle ahead and the family expects to be in Boston for another week while he awaits follow up surgery, they are relieved that their lot has not been worse.

“It wasn’t bleeding heavily, but it didn’t look very good, like a war wound,” Alan Hern told NBC’s Today Show. “Luckily, they got him on an ambulance pretty quickly.

"He’s been through a lot. A couple of times yesterday he opened his eyes. He knew we were there. His mother and I were with him,” Hern said. "We figured out that he was worried about the breathing tube. He wasn’t sure what that was all about. We told him that everything was all right.”

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Alan Hern would know plenty about war wounds. The football coach is a graduate of the Naval Academy and spent five years serving in the Persian Gulf. He was awarded with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for superior performance for his time on duty.

That helped steel the father for the trauma that now befallen his son, though it hardly makes the experience any easier.

Aaron Hern, who is a pony baseball player and a standout student at Martinez Junior High, should be receiving plenty of “get well soon” cards from his classmates, who have spent the previous two days writing cards for the 11-year-old to send to him in Boston.

When the family eventually returns home, the Herns will be greeted with the most enthusiastic welcomes possible, whether they are viewed as neighbors, friends, coaches or all of the above.

“You expect someone to be rattled and scattered in a situation like that. Who wouldn’t be?” Alhambra athletic director Pat Ertola told MaxPreps. “But Alan was so cool and calm and collected. He had things handled. It’s just sort of what I’ve come to know about him. Even though he described what transpired as something out of a war scene.

"Our only thoughts and wishes right now is to get Alan and his family back home safe and sound."

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