Fallen service members honored in 28-mile march
May 3, 2013
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- More than 600 service members came together at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, to commemorate their comrades, friends and family who have made the ultimate sacrifice by honoring them in the second annual March for the Fallen, which started April 27, and ended early the next morning.
The 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, of the Pennsylvania National Guard deployed to Kuwait, hosted the event at Camp Arifjan, which mirrored one held on April 28, at their home station, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.
"We are putting our time in to remember the sacrifices that our fallen comrades have made," said Pfc. Kate M. Till, administration specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 54th Signal Battalion, 160th Signal Brigade. "They did a lot more than I am doing right now. They put their lives on the line, and this is just a small token of gratitude."
Participants put names and faces to some of the 6,648 U.S. service members who have died serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by proudly displaying mementos on their rucksacks and shirts.
"I am doing the march for Spc. Ryan Walker, killed in action in Iraq January 2006," said Staff Sgt. Curtis N. Thornton, Earth Terminal Complex platoon sergeant, 56th Sig. Company, 54th Sig. Bn., 160th Sig. Bde. "Walker was a combat medic on his first deployment. He wasn't supposed to go out that day but the people that were replacing him were short, so he volunteered to go and got hit by an (Improvised Explosive Device)."
Thornton made a special collage of patches that represented all the things he knew about Walker, which he wore on the march and plans to send to Walker's family.
"He was always really happy, always willing to help out with anything. I can't think of a single time that he complained about anything. He was just a really genuine person," said Thornton with tears in his eyes. "I know that he would want to be here to do this as well, that's the kind of person he was."
The march was also an opportunity to unify participants for a greater cause.
"One of our team member's spouse is a fallen comrade. We all wore t-shirts with a picture of him, which brings back his memory. It's important to me because I'm able to I feel like I'm giving back the team," said Sgt. 1st Class Xavier L. Everett, reserve affairs, Third Army/U.S. Army Central G-1, who marched for Master Sgt. Pedro Mercado. "We are like family so if it's important to (Master Sgt. Kim Mercado) it's important to us."
Service members chose to march, walk or run, and complete the 28 miles in relay teams by individually completing three to seven mile increments.
"I did this to do something for the country by representing those fallen Soldiers who can't be with us here today. They are doing so much for the country, they are dying for our freedom, and it is necessary that we pay them their respects," said Pfc. Matthew P. Mursewick, satellite communications technician, 56th Sig. Co., 54th Sig. Bn., 160th Sig. Bde.
Mursewick was a part of Thornton's team including 6 others who carried an American flag as their baton.
"Carrying the flag represented the values and freedoms that our fallen comrades lost their lives defending," said Thornton who brought his team of young Soldiers together in hopes of showing them more about those who have gone before them.
Many proud cheers were given to 'Old Glory' as it passed marchers on the route and gave them a further boost of inspiration. Thornton and his team will be donating the flag to Fort Indiantown Gap Museum. Other proceeds from the march will be donated to the museum and Wounded Warrior Inc.
"I'm here to commemorate all of our fallen warriors from Pennsylvania and throughout the service," said Lt. Col. Todd Sowinski, commander of 1st Squadron, 104th Cav. Reg., of the Pennsylvania National Guard. "Like my sergeant major says, 'if you doubt what the most important patch on your uniform is, look down on your right shoulder and look at the American flag'--that's what we march for today."