Soldier, battle buddy complete four-day, 100-mile road march for charity
June 11, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (June 11, 2012) -- Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Kelly, a cancer survivor, possesses only a fraction of the physical abilities he once had. A weakened immune system and removal of his gall bladder have slowed him down, not to mention the side-effects of a drawer-full of medicines required to keep him healthy.
But none of those obstacles stopped him from completing a four-day, 100-mile road march June 4, in support of cancer research. The Mike Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade Soldier said it was a mental and physical beast of a challenge.
"In my mind, I thought it (100 miles) was a feasible number and an obtainable goal," said the advanced individual training platoon sergeant at the 85-mile mark. "After day one, I thought it was going to be a lot rougher than I originally thought. Day two was worse. We pushed through day three. Coming into day four, it was all over but the crying. We just pushed through it."
The Road March for Cancer, as it was dubbed, began 4 a.m. on June 1 at the Post Field House. Kelly and Sgt. William Strickland, an old battle buddy from Fort Carson, Colo., each set out with 50-pound ruck sacks and marched in a circular route on the installation. The pair covered 25 miles each day.
A host of senior officers to include Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, quartermaster general, cadre and support personnel from Mike Co. and its higher headquarters, noncommissioned officers from the Logistics NCO Academy as well as the Advance Individual Training warriors from Kelly's platoon took part in the march at various points.
Financial support was even greater than the moral support for the event. Fans gave through Kelly's website and motorists and passersby tossed currency and coins into plastic buckets on hand at the field house and brandished by support personnel at busy intersections along the march route. In the end, he raised more than $15,000 for the American Cancer Society.
"Everyone did their part to support the cause," said 244th QM Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Clarence Richardson, who helped to oversee operations for the event. "All along the way, the support was there. People in the housing areas (along the march route) were asking if we needed anything and offering their help. It's great to see the community come together."
The community came out in large numbers at the finish as well. Maj. Gen. James Hodge, Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general, and various other senior leaders were on hand to witness Kelly and Strickland hobble to the Post Field House around 7 p.m. The pair was subsequently joined by roughly 100 supporters as they paraded around the field house track for the last two miles to hip hop and rock anthems like "Eye of the Tiger" playing on the loudspeaker system.
As the sun slowly set, casting golden highlights on those gathered for the occasion, Kelly and Strickland crossed the finish line and in ritualistic fashion, dropped their rucks in unison, saluted one another then embraced to applause and cheers.
On the podium, Kelly thanked Strickland, his wife, Cori, the chain of command and everyone for their support in raising funds and awareness. Brigade Quartermaster, a Post Exchange retailer, matched the donation amount, helping the effort to surpass its initial goal by $10,000.
Kelly was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2010. He has since undergone chemotherapy and other treatments. While his cancer is currently in remission, Kelly sought to use his good fortune to help others and make a statement about resilience.