This year’s March of the Fallen was held in Buckeye at the Verrado Golf Club™. Over 200 ruck marchers, motivators and volunteers participated. Fellow Blue Blazer Squadron members Mauricio “Mo” Iaucelli and Joshua Abel working under the direction of SSgt Alan McMurray handled a fair amount of logistics, planning, online registration plus payment and day of the event coordination and multimedia capture. Blue Blazer Todd Hornback, Joy Rosek, Josh Swartz, and Jay Critcher along with the rest of the team at Verrado®, were instrumental in hosting the location, mapping out the hike and providing a delicious box lunch. The morning began with setup. Soon after, the participants began to arrive with their rucks and makeshift weight including salt, sand, weights, and bagged concrete. Each participant registered and ruck marchers weighed in. The volunteers led by MSgt Christine Wagner and Joy Rosek did a phenomenal job ushering everyone through registration and weigh-in. SSgt McMurray greeted everyone, shared a few words then introduced TSgt (retired) Matthew Slaydon who spoke about his experience getting blasted down range and the significance of the march. With the bagpipes playing, the march began with 75# weight class, followed by 60# and 45#. After everyone departed, the registration volunteers converted the registration table into a space for participants to weigh out and collect their t-shirt. The airmen volunteers exceeded all expectations in terms of organizing and preparing for the return of participants. The post-march requirements, similar to registration, operated like a well-oiled machine. After 59:53 into the hike the first ruck marcher, SrA James Gilmore returned who was greeted by volunteers and the Blue Star Mothers at the finish line cheering and handing out Gatorade, Hershey’s chocolate bars and other snacks. Other volunteers hiked up the path a bit for cheering and a final motivation push. After the march, fellow Blue Blazer Jason Klonoski said,
“TSgt. Slaydon’s words carried me the whole way. Hauling the ruck wasn’t easy, but it was an honor! There should be more of us out there next year!”
Ruck participants weighed out and received their t-shirts alongside motivators. Each grabbed a box lunch provided by the Verrado Grille (a very yummy chicken salad wrap) that Karen Lyons, spouse of Blue Blazer Adam Lyons said,
“Of all the functions we do, this was far and away the best food ever!”
SSgt McMurray handed out “Machete” awards for the first to finish in each weight category and most weight carried. The conclusion and tear-down was easy, once again Verrado went above and beyond to ensure the event space was uber accommodating. Blue Blazer Squadron Commander, Bruce Larson said,
“As a motivator it was an incredible experience to hike the trail with the ruckers cheering them on and keeping their mind off of the heavy weights they were carrying.”
Huge thanks to the MOTF Committe, Verrado, Fighter Country Partnership, Blue Blazer Squadron, Blue Star Mothers and all the volunteers who selflessly donated their time and strength to make this year’s March of the Fallen the most successful to date. We raised over $5400 for the Luke AFB Airmen’s Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project with more to come in extra t-shirt sales.