More than a dozen Marine Raiders are preparing for a 770-mile march to honor the lives of their fallen brothers on the one-year anniversary of a tragic Black Hawk helicopter crash that killed 11 troops off the coast of Florida. On March 11, 2016, 14 Marine Corps Raiders and Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen will step off from the beach at Navarre, Florida to undertake an epic 770-mile march to honor the lives of seven of their own.
On March 11, 2016, 14 Marine critical skills operators Corps Raiders and Sspecial Aamphibious Rreconnaissance Ccorpsmen with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command will depart step off from the beach at Navarre, Florida, and walk 770 miles to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The group, Marine Raider Memorial March, announced today it will complete mence the 10-day, round-the-clock operation on the one year anniversary of the UH-60 Blackhawk Hawk helicopter crash that in nearby Santa Rosa Sound which claimed the lives of seven Raiders and four Louisiana Army National Guardsmen crewmen.
Staff Sgt. Nate Harris, an active duty critical skills operator who launched the group, said they told Marine Corps Times that Marines and corpsmen hope objective of the march is to honor the fallen Marines ir legacy of the fallenand their support by supporting the Gold Star families left behind after the training accident.
"I don’t want this helicopter tragedy to be the defining moment in their lives, because it wasn’t," Harris he said. "These guys were real people: they were fathers, brothers and sons; they had family and friends; they were successful in the MARSOC [Marine Corps Special Operations Command] community and earned their spot as a Raider."
The Marines completing the long-distance hump, ruck march, which Harris began organizing on his personal time the day after the crash, will raise funds for basic supplies along the 770-mile route as well as the nonprofit to assist the Raiders' Gold Star families and ensure basic safety, food and lodging along the way.
It will be a grueling journey, Harris he said, but one he hopes will bring family members and friends of the perished Marines further along the healing process.
"We’re going to get frustrated, we’re going to lose toenails and get sore spots on our backs, but the physical thing we’re going to be putting ourselves through is nothing compared to the mental pain that these ... Gold Star families are going to have at every birthday, every Christmas, every March 10," Harris said.
Along the way they will pass between them the only piece of equipment to survive the crash intact: a paddle belonging to one of the deceased Raiders — until they deliver it to the hands of Lt. Col. Craig Wolfenbarger Wolfenberger, commander of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, home of the fallen Marines.
"We're going to be carrying it from as close as we can get to the crash site all the way back to Camp Lejeune, signifying bringing them home," Harris said.
Marines planning to walk 770 miles in honor of seven fallen MARSOC Raiders will carry this paddle, one of the only things to remain intact following the helicopter crash that killed the Marines and is a tribute to the Raiders' amphibious heritage.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marine Raider Memorial March
In doing so they also honor the Marine Raiders' ir heritage. In World War II, when the Raiders were formed to conduct high-speed amphibious landings and surprise raids behind enemy lines throughout the Pacific, each of them was issued a paddle.
That paddle was inscribed and presented to his family upon the Raider's death.