FORT GORDON, Ga. -- It's 2 a.m. on a cold November night, and although a heavy rain dampens the earth before him, the Marine runs on. With each step he takes, he offers a silent prayer to fallen comrades. Some he knew, others he did not, but one thing remains certain: those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for service and country did so wearing the same uniform as he. Ignoring the cold, blinking away rain drops - the Marine runs on.
Servicemembers and their families, along with civilian officials and other guests, gathered for a ceremony Nov. 10 on Barton Field that culminated the conclusion of the sixth annual Marine Corps "Tribute to the Fallen" run that began on Nov. 1.
"All of the fallen servicemembers we honor today volunteered to serve our nation during a time of war, they knew the risk. Some of them did not yet have the privilege to call themselves American Citizens, yet they still answered the nation's call to arms," said Maj. Juan Rivera, commanding officer, Company D, Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion."To the families and friends of our fallen warriors, we are humbled to be in your presence. We owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. We must never forget."
The "Tribute to the Fallen" run was created to commemorate the more than 1,300 Marines and Navy Corpsmen who made the ultimate sacrifice while part of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. To begin the event, the Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment ordered that 21-rounds of ammunition would be delivered to a firing detail on Nov. 10.
Then Marines, Sailors and other volunteers began running the track around Barton Field 24 hours a day for ten days, for a total of 1,300 miles. Each runner carried 21-rounds of ammunition as they completed their lap, passing the rounds off to each new runner.
After the 1,300 miles were completed, those rounds were used in a 21-gun salute during the culminating memorial ceremony.
Nov. 10 also marked the 235th Marine Corps Birthday.
"Today is a bitter sweet day; we celebrate the birthday of our Corps and we pay tribute to those fallen Sailors and Marines that gave their lives defending each other and this country," Rivera said. "Marines and Sailors use such terms as honor, courage and commitment. These fallen heroes, whom we have honored during these last nine days, embody these values and everything that is good with the United States of America."