Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Freedom Isn't Free


 I have to share with you the experience I had this past weekend which was unlike any other Memorial Day weekend that I can remember. I followed a group of about 35 individuals who were taking part in the 2014 Ruck to Remember 60 to 60.  This is a 60 mile ruck from Harper’s Ferry, WV through our Nation’s Capital to Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.
If you didn’t know, Section 60 is the burial ground for all military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The purpose of the ruck was to honor the men and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our rights and freedom.

The route was 60 miles long

My job, along with a few other volunteers dubbed the “Red Shirts” was to provide food and water re-supply throughout the three days of this mission as well as some smiles and motivation!  As “Red Shirts” we saw it all: tired faces but relief in their eyes as they reached another resting point, we saw blistered feet as they patched up and got ready for the next few miles, we saw sad faces but we also saw happy faces, people laughing together and sharing their experiences of service with one another.

Harper's Ferry, WV Starting Point

20 miles

What really brought this event and the people in it together was sharing “Stories of Valor,” a way for everyone involved to keep in mind the reason why we started. All of us had some sort of connection to the military, whether it was having served time or knowing someone who did.

Team Athletes told "Stories of Valor" on the service members pictured above
at several rally points

Listening to each person in the team share the story of a historically remembered military member or the story of a loved one was compelling. Words cannot explain how those stories touched every one that was present.
There really is no number of miles, no amount of sweat, no amount of sleep deprivation or level of pain that can compare what these service members before us did.

The Lincoln Memorial

I really give this troop so much credit for completing the mission. Stopping to thank a service member for their service is one thing, to leave your family behind, throw a 40lb pack on your back and ruck day and night for two and a half days with about 30 other people you’ve never met, I think, is another. 

Red Shirts waited for the arrival of the Team Athletes
near the Reflecting Pool around 5am on the morning of
Memorial Day

Three of the team athletes and I grabbed lunch after the ruck was over. I remember the look on the face of one person as they hobbled into the restaurant behind me. He asked “What run did you guys just finish?” After hearing that they had just finished hiking 60 miles he said
“Why would anyone want to hike for 60 miles?”

“To honor those military service members that have fought for your freedom.”

Hiking through Washington, D.C, nearing the end of the hike

It certainly was a Ruck to Remember.

-Patty Martinez, USMC
Office of Admissions VA Work Study

The Three Soldiers


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