Four Days March Nijmegen
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Members of the Belgian German Friendship Team pose at the entrance to Camp Heumensoord, the Netherlands, during the Four Days March Nijmegen on July 19, 2022. Service members from across U.S. Army Garrison Benelux participated in the 105th edition of the multi-day march through the Nijmegen area. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Axel Gabaldón, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brunssum Directorate of Emergency Services) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Four Days March Nijmegen
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Axel Gabaldón (right), a Military Police Soldier at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brunssum, hugs a German teammate after completing the Four Days March Nijmegen on July 22, 2022. Sgt. Gabaldon participated in the march as part of an international military team made up of service members from across NATO. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Axel Gabaldón, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brunssum Directorate of Emergency Services) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Four Days March Nijmegen
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and the 39th Strategic Signal Battalion rest alongside a road in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, during the Four Days March Nijmegen on July 22, 2022. Service members from across U.S. Army Garrison Benelux participated in the 105th edition of the multi-day march through the Nijmegen area. (Photo courtesy of 1st Lt. Flor Velasco, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Plans and Operations Division) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium – The Four Days March Nijmegen (“Vierdaagse” in Dutch) is the world’s largest multiple day marching event. It has taken place almost every year since 1909 with only a handful of cancellations due to events such as the World War I, World War II and the coronavirus pandemic.

Started as a way to promote Dutch participation in physical activities, the walk was originally a military event. However, over the years, the number of civilian and international participants has increased. The event can be accomplished either individually or as a team, and everyone who completes the course is awarded the Vierdaagse Cross by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Each day of the march is named after a town in the Nijmegen area the course will pass through that day. Participants cover between 30 to 50 kilometers (18.6 to 31 miles) a day, depending on the route they chose at registration.

This year, 13 Soldiers and one Airman from installations across the Benelux participated in the Four Days March Nijmegen. They were divided across two teams – one all-American team made up of service members from Chièvres Air Base and U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels, and one international team made up of service members from across NATO.

Sgt. Axel Gabaldón, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brunssum (Belgian German Friendship Team)

Soon after my arrival in the Netherlands back in 2019, I heard about the march though my unit. I was instantly invested in the idea, however I was also hesitant since I didn’t know if I would actually be able to walk that far.

In April of this year, my wife, Sgt. Laure Delbrouck (Belgian Defense Forces), invited me to do a 12 kilometer walk with her international team. The team, called the Belgian German Friendship Team (BGFT), consisted of Soldiers from Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Spain, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and the United States. During that walk, the Four Days March Nijmegen was brought up, and I was invited to join the team. I then invited two other Soldiers from my unit to join as well.

To participate in the Four Days March Nijmegen event, the BGFT’s leadership first required us to participate in at least two other marches with them. Doing these events before the march in Nijmegen gave us a chance to not only train, but to also get to know and bond with the team. By the time Nijmegen came around we were already very familiar with the members of the team and had met a few new members as well.

The march itself was very exciting to be a part of – throughout the route people handed out snacks and cheered us on. When it was hot outside, they also offered to spray us with water. It really helped to keep morale high. The march definitely wasn’t like any military ruck march I’d been on before. That, and the experience of some of the members of our team, was instrumental to the overall success we had. My wife, fellow unit members and I were the only ones who had not already completed the march. One of our Danish teammates was completing his 18th Nijmegen march.

The history of the area was held dear in the hearts of the participating Soldiers, especially within our team. We stopped at multiple memorial sites along the way and laid down crosses to honor the fallen. Being able to complete something so challenging with Soldiers from all over the world built a lot of camaraderie. We were able to trade our patches with Soldiers from many different nations.

Overall, completing the march was a very memorable and challenging experience. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of and made life-long friends along the way. I am very happy I was able to be a part of something so special.

1st Lt. Flor Velasco, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux (39th Strategic Signal Battalion/USAG Benelux Team)

Our team was a mixture of U.S. military personnel from different units, with all of us attempting the march for the first time.

Getting up each day was a struggle for all, with blister pains and muscle aches getting worse as the march progressed. Each day began with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up (and on one day a 2:30 a.m. wake-up) marked by a loudspeaker system playing some of the most annoying, but catchy, music to get everyone moving. We had one hour to get ready, including personal hygiene, putting on the uniform and eating breakfast.

Once 4:30 a.m. hit, we were already on the move on the prescribed walking route for the day. Being “fresh” from a night's rest, the first few kilometers were easy…it wasn’t until the sun was overhead and you were on the eighth kilometer that you realized it was going to be a long day. Each kilometer afterwards was a challenge, and even more challenging if you had blisters or muscle aches. Each 10 to 15 minute break during the walk was a double-edged sword - it felt good to remove the backpack and boots, but it was an even worse feeling to put it all back on and start walking again.

While the route was grueling, walking through all the villages around Nijmegen was an awesome experience and probably helped many people complete the course. Throughout the day, and even during the early morning hours, you would always see crowds of (mostly local) supporters giving words of encouragement and providing food and drinks. As a participant, there was never a time where you would be thirsty or hungry.

Each person contributed to the overall success of our team in his or her own way. Whether it was providing snacks and drinks to the team or setting a reasonable walking pace, all of these little things mattered. Unfortunately, not everyone on the team completed the event, but there was no shame in not finishing. It really was a tough event, and anyone that tells you otherwise is lying (take it from someone who has already experienced their fair share of ruck marches). However, I think I speak for our entire team when I say the march was also a great way to get back to the basics of being a Soldier.

Visit the Nijmegen March website to learn more about the event (no federal endorsement implied).