Airmen honor Gold Star Families with Mountain Man

Eleven Airmen assigned to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center made their way 13.1 miles through Gatlinburg and into Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains April 22 to complete the 10th Mountain Man Memorial March.

“You got this!” “Way to go Team TEC!” “You are all fantastic! Well done.” “Good stuff man!”

These were just a few of the many social media comments from family, friends, and supporters as the two, five-man military teams – one team representing TEC and one team representing the local Air Force Sergeants Association chapter – as well as one half marathon runner, posted their progress online.

Many other service members and veterans, as well as those from the community, joined them.

“They do it every year, it honors Gold Star families … families who unfortunately lost someone in the line of battle,” said Master Sgt. Jason Miller, in his online video post. “We do this to honor the families as well as those who lost their lives defending our freedoms.”

Their two marching military teams included: Team TEC – Senior Master Sgt. Nicholas Brock; Master Sgt. William Bryant; Master Sgt. James Laws; Technical Sgt. Heather Anderson; and Tech. Sgt. Amie Taylor. Team AFSA – Master Sgt. Shane Hurd; Master Sgt. Jason Miller; Master Sgt. Jeela Taylor; Tech. Sgt. Charles Pugh; and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Fry.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Wells, who ran the half marathon, finished sixth overall. Team TEC team finished 2nd and Team AFSA finished 3rd in the military team light 13.1 division.

“I thought it was great – everyone was so enthusiastic to get out there and do it,” said Senior Master Sgt. Nicholas Brock, who recently joined the TEC as Director of Education for the Chief Master Sergeant Paul H. Lankford EPME Center. It was his first memorial march as well as his first community event with his division. “I’m proud to be part of such a selfless organization.”

“The City of Gatlinburg was so supportive,” said Brock. “They just cheered us up and down the way.”

The first Mountain Man Memorial March was held to honor Army 1st Lt Frank Walkup and his family. Walkup died in 2007 from an improvised explosive device in Iraq. The annual 26.2, 13.1 and 10K run/march/ruck has since grown to be among the largest Gold Star Family events east of the Mississippi.

Participants carried placards with the names and photos of a fallen service members. There were hills to climb along the flat stretches, as well as paved, gravel and uneven roads. Some participants wore military uniforms and boots. Heavy-entry participants carried 35-pound rucksacks.

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