RIDGELAND, S.C. — Twenty-one men and women, consisting of Marines, military spouses, and supporters, have marched their way across Georgia to honor Marine Raiders who perished in a helicopter crash last year.
The Marine Raider Memorial March was founded by Marine Nathan Harris to honor the seven Marine Raiders and four Louisiana Army National Guardsmen who died March 10, 2015, in Navarre, Florida when their UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crashed during a night training mission.
The march is raising money for the Brothers in Arms Foundation, a nonprofit that supports members of the Marine Special Operations Community and the families of the fallen, according to the Marine Raider Memorial March website.
“So this journey is symbolic to the voyage from the crash site back to where we’re based,” Harris said. “So signifying bringing our brothers back home. Taking them on the journey that they weren’t able to make.”
The marchers on the teams are carrying rucksacks that weigh 45 pounds up to 15 miles per stretch in a relay-style format. Each of the seven teams also has a 35-pound engraved steel plate with the names of the fallen that will be presented to their families at the end of the journey.
Starting their more-than 770 mile trek in Navarre, they marched north through Georgia, up Highway 84 and eventually connected with Highway 17 to march through Richmond Hill and Savannah.
Those who were not marching Wednesday morning were invited to the Daniel Defense Company’s plant in Ridgeland. The company, based in Black Creek, is known for its firearms, parts and attachments.
The marchers toured the facility and participated in the assembly of an M4A1 rifle that will be auctioned at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on March 25 to raise money for the Brothers in Arms Foundation.
“It says a lot about Daniel Defense and for them to support us both at work and in our personal time, when we’re honoring our brothers says a lot about them,” Harris said.
Their final destination is Camp Lejeune, where they will hand over an paddle that survived the crash, and adorned with dog tags of the fallen, to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Craig Wolfenbarger.
Harris said the team members have not yet decided when they will do this march again.
“This has been a life-changing event for a lot of us,” he said. “And to see how much support we’ve gotten throughout our entire route, I think that doing it again is a very good possibility.”