By Corporal Travis Michaud, IC Clothing Counter, CFSU(O) –
In the early morning darkness of 28 September, 2019 over 700 soldiers, veterans and civilians gathered at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania for the 8th Annual March for the Fallen (MFTF). This annual march is held to commemorate and remember fallen service members from across all branches of the United States (US) military. Hosted by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, participants were given the choice of a 5km, 14 mile (22km), or a 28 mile (45km) march as well as a hand cycle division. The marching categories were divided amongst light (no weight) and heavy (35lbs rucksack minimum) divisions.
I had the honour of participating in the 28-mile heavy division this year alongside a recently retired Afghanistan veteran who is a good friend of mine. Being the only Canadian in uniform drew lots of curious glances but this gave me the chance to talk to so many fascinating people.
I first learnt of this event while participating in the 30th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico earlier this year. While the terrain was far greener than the desert of White Sands, the many hills, rocky trails and humidity made for an equally challenging event.
Every mile of the MFTF was marked with the name and photo of a fallen military member. As we moved through the training areas and ranges of the base everyone took time to stop and pay their respects at each marker, making the whole meaning of the event that much more significant.
The logistical support that the US Army put out for this event was second to none, with aid stations every two miles, on top of medics and troops patrolling the entire route via vehicle ensuring that everyone was still good to go.
Along the way we ran into Canadians who had travelled from various parts of the country to participate in a team building exercise aimed at learning how we do things in the military. They included various Canadian business representatives from the financial community as well as some of their American counterparts. I spent the majority of my day rucking with a soon-to-be-deployed US Army Lieutenant from the 28th Infantry Division as well as a retired Royal Canadian Artillery officer that I met on the route. After many literal and figurative ups and downs, the retired gunner and I helped get one of our American friends through the tough bits and over the finish line. Different uniforms with different flags on our sleeves didn’t make a difference, we all came together to motivate one another and successfully complete the march.
I wish to thank the US Army for organising this event and I am looking forward to participating again in the future. From the welcome at the in-clearance station to the people that I met on course, the event was a fantastic experience for a very good cause. Next stop is White Sands Missile Range once again for the 31st Bataan Memorial Death March in spring 2020!
Photos provided by Corporal Travis Michaud
This post is also available in: Français (French)