“But we in it shall be remembered —
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers …”
Nearly 400 civilians and military participated on September 29th in the 7th annual March for the Fallen event at Fort Indiantown Gap’s army training campus. The march honors fallen soldiers that have “given the ultimate sacrifice,” so that “we can watch the sun come up like we see on this beautiful fall morning over a free country,” stated Major General Anthony Carrelli at the 6am welcome ceremony.
More than 110 of the participants came as part of the Alpha Architect team led by Wes Gray. Most of these folks were from the finance sector, as AA’s Ryan Kirlin coins “Crazy civilians in the finance sector who met on Twitter.”
The composition of the AA Team?
Most wore no company logos. No titles. No name tags. But several possess considerable notoriety, Eric Balchunas and Jeremy Schwartz among them.
Some came from as far as Milan, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Some “carried heavy,” meaning a 35-lb backpack. Some brought their spouses. Some were service veterans.
Most appeared physically fit like Ben Johnson, some incredibility fit like Cory Hoffstein, but others were admittedly out-of-shape and overweight.
Some did not train at all, naturally gifted apparently, like Bonnie Schwartz and Meb Faber, despite Wes’ encouragement for months to “Get After It,” yet still managed to crush it.
Nearly all opted for the 28-mile course, including 3000-ft elevation change, versus the 14-mile or 5-mile courses.
Some developed horrible foot blisters, like Andrew Miller, at the 10-mile mark. Others could barely walk back to their barracks … barracks!
Some finished extremely fast, practically running the course, like Nick McCullum in 4 hours something, but others literally took all day, including last-man-in Erik Chavez … Wes held-up the informal awards ceremony until Erik arrived, sometime after 8pm.
But all finished.
And most were smiling … just about all day!
How could that be?
And, why would these people do this?
Or, as AA’s Pat Cleary joked: “Although Cliff Asness couldn’t attend, he did want to share a quick note….’What the hell is wrong with you people???’ “
For many, it’s very personal, like Eric Mendez whose family members have fallen. Others never served in the military or, going in, did not intend to march for anyone specifically … yet all on the AA team ended-up wearing dogtags with the name of a fallen soldier in honorarium.
Maybe participants were motivated by the pictures of the fallen in the starting area … and again at every mile marker along the way.
Maybe they kept marching because military participants carrying heavy, often while struggling up the hills, thanked passing civilians carrying light without prompting: “Thank you sir for your support.”
Can you believe that?
Maybe it was because “our country has rarely been so divided,” the military chaplain stated at the welcome, and somehow this march helps assuage.
Jim Kirlin, Ryan’s dad and a Vietnam War vet (Company C, First Battalion, First Regiment, First Marine Division … rifle company), spoke of “being part of something bigger than yourself” and the motivational power of leadership, recalling his own witness to leadership of a young Captain Marsh Carter during the first drop-in chopper battle, called Ban Lahn II.
Wes finished the 28-mile course in 6 hours and 17 minutes … among the fastest civilians carrying heavy. If that was not enough, he doubled-back 6 miles to walk through the finish line again with his wife Katie. How about that? (BTW. Ryan, an Olympic-class rower and Wes’ junior, came in right behind him.)
While hiking up the 2-mile long “killer hill” at the 19th mile, Katie spoke of the gratification she felt as a former military wife, the sense of community and brotherhood, which she misses: “It brings together the two worlds that have been a major part of our lives: military and finance. It feels good!”
By evening’s end, hoarse from the event, Wes toasted the following from the eulogy of Doug Zembiec, the Lion of Fallujah:
Be a person of Principle.
Fight for what you believe in.
Keep your word.
Live with integrity.
Believe in something bigger than yourself.
Serve your country.
Give something back to society.
Lead from the front. Conquer your fears.
Be a good friend.
Be humble, but be self-confident.
Appreciate your friends and family.
Be a leader, not a follower.
Be valorous on the field of battle.
Take responsibility for your actions.
Never forget those that were killed.
Here’s to the fallen…