Retired Tech. Sgt. Matthew Slaydon, guest speaker, spoke April 20 during the kick-off of the March of the Fallen. Slaydon, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, was wounded in 2007 while deployed to Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated in front of him.. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann)
Military members and local community members gather April 20 to participate in the 2014 March of the Fallen event at the Raven Golf Course at Verrado in Buckeye. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann)
The March of the Fallen takes place annually in the White Tank Mountains. The MOTF is a 4.5-mile rucksack march dedicated to honoring those who gave their lives during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann)
by Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/28/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Airmen and local community members came together April 20 to honor military members who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country by participating in the annual March of the Fallen rucksack march through the White Tank Mountains. There were three different weight categories participants could select to carry ranging from 45 to 75 pounds.
The March of the Fallen is a 4.5 mile hike dedicated to honoring those who gave their lives during the war efforts of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
The rucksack march was created in 2012 by Staff Sgt. Alan McMurray, 56th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy technician, and Senior Airman Bryan Shook, 943rd Aerospace Medical Squadron medical technician at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, after consolidating a combination of ideas and past experiences.
"Their watch is now over, so we carry their weight upon our backs and continue onward in their honor," McMurray said.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and Luke Airman's Fund, he said.
There were 131 participants in this year's event with 30 volunteers. They raised approximately $7,500. This year saw more than triple the amount of participants and money raised since the program began.
The guest speaker, retired Tech. Sgt. Matthew Slaydon, was wounded in 2007 while deployed to Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated two feet from his face. The blast severely injured Slaydon, resulting in the loss of his left arm and his eyesight.
Slaydon motivated the crowd with his words and by telling his experiences.
"Just remember the experience you're getting to have today - one so many would give much to be able to participate in," he said. "They would give so much to be able to feel that grinding, painful sensation in their steps that you will feel today, but they can't because they left their legs somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan. Don't just do it today for those who we left on the battlefield, do it for those who are unable to experience this due to their injuries. They are fallen as well."