Mountain March Marathon Honors Our Military Gold Star Families

Mountain March Marathon Honors Our Military Gold Star Families

Mountain March Marathon Honors Our Military Gold Star Families

This past Saturday marked the tenth annual Mountain Man Memorial March for Gold Star Families. The event takes place in the Great Smoky Mountains town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There are marathons all over the world. This one honors those military personnel killed in action and the loving families they left behind.

The first Mountain Man Memorial March was held in honor of University of Tennessee graduate Frank Walkup, Jr. From the Mountain Man Memorial March Facebook page:

The Mountain Man Memorial march was created to honor one of our fallen UT alumni, 1LT Frank Walkup who was killed in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position. The 2005 graduate was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and was a Ranger School Graduate. The event has now grown to a tribute which honors all of our fallen American Heroes and Veterans, past, present, and future.

Members of the University of Tennessee Army R.O.T.C Rocky Top Battalion who had been cadets with Lt. Walkup ran the very first Mountain Man Memorial March in 2008. Since the event has grown to about a thousand marchers and runners with many categories, The American Legion Post 2 in Knoxville handles the March organization and logistics. The Mountain Man Memorial March consists of a marathon, half-marathon and 10K. The March is further divided into categories such as Military Heavy. In Military Heavy, the individual or team marches the mountain course in boots, utes (military camouflage) and a ruck (a weighted backpack). For non-military types, there are civilian light categories.

Gold Star Mother Amy Keene and Lt. Cmdr. Robert Cosby after the Mountain Man Memorial March

Amy Keene is the Gold Star Mother of Specialist Christopher Fox, United States Army, killed in action on September 29, 2008. Spc. Fox was killed by small arms fire in a Baghdad neighborhood. Here is Amy telling the story of how she asked Lt. Cmdr. Robert Cosby, U.S. Navy (ret.), then a Senior Naval Science Instructor at the high school where Miss Keene taught, to run in honor of her son.

This year, in addition to Commander Cosby, Caithlin Frost marched the half-marathon distance in honor of her nephew. Miss Frost has a possibly torn meniscus from the Knoxville Half Marathon three weeks earlier. That is why she marched/walked the Mountain Man Memorial March.

There are not that many military families and we tend to clump. We speak the same language. Three years ago, Commander Cosby’s wife, my friend and fellow Citadel and Army mom Rachel, said, as you would to a friend, “Let’s do the 10k”. I was 40 pounds overweight, but I knew some of those Gold Star Families, so I said, “Sure”.

There are no words to explain the gravity of the honor that is afforded these Gold Star Families. Every year, I am in awe of their bravery and sacrifice, to say nothing of the sacrifice their children have made so that those of us who don’t serve are free.

After the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Mountain Man Memorial March, we gather for a photo. This is just the Fox/Morris Crew. There are a thousand marchers.

This year, I marched in honor of Spc. Trevor Adkins, who was 21 at the time he was killed in action on July 8, 2012 in Afghanistan. I only did the half-marathon, civilian, light.

There were teams from all over the country, including my alma mater the University of Cincinnati.

Bearcat Battalion is ready to crush the Great Smoky Mountains

Gatlinburg was devastated by the wildfires this year and the damage is still evident. That did not stop the city of Gatlinburg from doing an outstanding job of supporting the Mountain Man Memorial March. The residents of Gatlinburg and all of East Tennessee proudly support our military and veteran families.

For many families, no matter how many years have gone by, the emotions are still raw and evident. All they ask is that their loved ones’ sacrifice is remembered and honored. I want to leave you all with some pictures of the fallen. We honor their sacrifice when we look at their pictures, say their names and tell their stories.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived” — George S. Patton

I thank God that such men and women lived and that at the Mountain Man Memorial March each April we celebrate their lives, their sacrifice and the families they left behind.

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2 Comments
  • Bernie says:

    Thank you for honoring my son, my hero, LCPL William Craig Koprince, Jr. Each year I am amazed, really something more than amazed but not sure I could find the word (s), at the level of devotion by the event coordinators, volunteers, marchers, and family members. This is NOT an easy task for any of them, yet they have the most positive attitudes and hearts in seeing our fallen are honored and not forgotten, which is our biggest fear as a family member. Toni, I witness your raw emotion in honoring those who have given their all for your freedoms. Thank you! Thank you to all the organizers, volunteers, and marchers. Thank you veterans for MY freedoms.

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