Fourteen Marine Raiders are getting ready to step off one month from today on a 770-mile ruck march to commemorate their fallen brothers on the one-year anniversary of a Black Hawk crash that killed 11 troops off the coast of Florida.
On March 11, the group, Marine Raider Memorial March, will depart the crash site at Navarre, Florida, on the 11-day, round-the-clock operation to the Raiders’ home at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, delivering the only surviving piece of equipment from the crash: a paddle belonging to one of the fallen Raiders.
Staff Sgt. Nate Harris, a critical skills operator who began organizing the march the day after the crash, said the undertaking will honor the families of the fallen.
“I wanted to do something to give back to the families,” he said. “There’s never enough we can do for the families; we have to show them how much these men and their families mean to us.”
On March 10, 2015, seven Raiders and four Louisiana National Guard members perished when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hit the water off the Florida Panhandle during a training mission in inclement weather.
One year later, the 14 critical skills operators and special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen in the Marine Corps Special Operations Command are taking leave from active-duty assignments to split into seven two-man teams — each in honor of one of the Raiders — and walk day and night over 10- to 12-mile relay segments and four states until they arrive at Camp Lejeune.
“It’s a way of saying to the families, ‘Hey, we’re still here and this is what your husbands, your fathers or your sons mean to you and what they mean to us,’” said a staff sergeant with the 1st Raider Battalion participating in the march who requested anonymity, citing security concerns. “It’s a way to give back and say that everyone is still here, everyone is still carrying that pack.”
The Raiders are currently gearing up for the event, putting in extra miles after duty and coordinating local support along the way.
“We all ruck and run a lot as it is; we generally try to stay in shape,” the staff sergeant said. “Now we’re doing a bit more rucking, trying to condition the feet.”
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