As of March 27 there have been 6,671 lives lost in operations Enduring and Iraqi freedom and Operation New Dawn, but almost 80,000 have returned from war with both visible and invisible wounds.
According to the Wounded Warrior Project website, an unprecedented percentage of service members are surviving severe wounds or injuries as a result of advanced battlefield medicine and body armor. Their mission is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.
Two years ago, in an effort to raise money to help America’s wounded warriors, Senior Airmen Alan McMurray and Bryan Shook, 56th Medical Group, organized the first March of the Fallen at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. This year’s event took place Saturday and attracted more than double the participants of the first year.
“The first year we had 40 participants and 25 volunteers, but this year we had 124 participants and 45 volunteers,” McMurray said. “We created this event as a tribute to the ultimate sacrifice made by our brothers and sisters in arms, to benefit the Wounded Worrier Project with all the proceeds, and to provide a unique and humbling experience to the participants.”
The March of the Fallen is a 4.75-mile ruck march through the White Tank Mountains. Each participant wears a weighted rucksack to symbolize the weight military members carry when deployed and each meter traversed represents a fallen warrior lost on the field of battle. The rucks are weighed before and after the march and have three categories: 45, 60 and 75 pounds.
There are also motivators who walk with the marchers to encourage them throughout the entire distance.
Whether marching or motivating, participating in the March of the Fallen is “a great way to renew your memories of the fallen,” said David Patterson, former Army cavalry scout.
After months of planning and hours spent setting up mile markers and weighing participants, the eight March of the Fallen committee members enjoyed seeing their hard work come together.
The March of the Fallen event was a very successful operation that went smoothly, said Airman 1st Class Nick Liuzzi, 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician.