Soldiers take Memorial Day message to beach

Over a dozen members of the Army National Guard marched 12 miles from the Foley Armory to the beach in Gulf Shores to spread a Memorial Day message Monday, May 26, 2014. Mostly made up of the 1165th Military Police Company, the soldiers made the trek down Highway 59 in full military gear including 50 pound rucksacks on their backs.

In the cool of the morning, over a dozen soldiers from the 1165th MP Company strapped on their gear and prepared for the walk.  Lashed to their packs were posters brandishing the names of those each soldier marched in memory of.

“Some of these are family members marching in honor of their families.  Some are friends and others are just people who have lost their lives in the line of duty protecting us,” said Specialist, Brandon Thompson of the 1165th and the Flomaton Police Department.

This Memorial Day march began two years ago when Thompson decided he wanted to do something to remember lost brothers at arms. Through social media, word spread and many more have now joined in the cause. When he heard about it, Tommie Perdue of the 711th Maintenance Battalion wanted to be a part of the walk.

“Figured I’d come up and do my part.  You know, this is what it’s all about and I feel that those who have gone before me would do the same if they were here now,” Perdue said.

As the four hour walk went on, the mercury pushed near 90 degrees and the going was tough.  What started as a uniform group eventually stretched out over half a mile.  Foley Police escorted the troops to the city limits where Gulf Shores Police picked them up.  As tough as the going was, motivation was found in the honks and cheers from motorists and by the folks who stood on the side of the road to support their effort.

“They’re here to remind us that Memorial Day is not just a day to remember, but a day to remember what our veterans died for,” said DAV Commander, Leon McGhee.

“They’re supporting each other.  They’re supporting the ones who gave everything they had…gave their life for us,” said another bystander, Ronnie Carroll.

After over four grueling hours, the goal was met.  Hot and tired, but not broken, those who marched cooled off in the Gulf of Mexico.  Those enjoying a day on the beach quickly gathered to see what the fuss was about.  Only then did the gravity of their actions set in with the troops.  Hundreds of people gathered around to hear the message of Memorial Day.  That message had to mean as much to Phyllis Parris as anyone.  Her son, Specialist Andrew Hand of Enterprise, Alabama died in the line of duty four years ago.

“This actually made my weekend.  It’s been a pretty emotional weekend because I wasn’t able to be at the National Cemetery where my son is buried or with any of my kids or grandkids so this made my weekend,” Parris said.  “It made me feel a whole lot better.”

On this day of remembrance, the small group of soldiers touched thousands through their walk and their beach ceremony and what better way to get a thank you than spontaneous cheers of “USA…USA…USA” from the crowd.

This was the third year of this Memorial Day event and the group from the 1165th plan on growing the “March to the Sea” every year.

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