Fallen Soldiers March

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Fallen Soldiers March® 501 (c) (3) non-profit

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Fallen Soldiers March

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Fallen Soldiers March®

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A 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Dedicated to
Providing Biblical Counseling and
Providing Service Dogs & Veteran Advocacy

History of the Fallen Soldiers March

History of the Fallen Soldiers March

A Patriot’s Journey Veteran’s Day 2009, 2010 & 2011 Revisiting on Veteran’s Day 2012
history_2009The Fallen Solders March roots originate from the humble actions of a returning member of the 269th Military Police Company,  Tennessee Army National Guard whose deployment lasted 20 months in Iraq for operations Iraqi Freedom. Master Sergeant Jim  Williams has survived a Humvee explosion. In 2005, after recovering from his physical injuries, he sought out to confront the emotional trauma resulting from his service in Iraq by initiating the “Nine Mile March” in August of 2005, and to draw attention to the families that grieve the loss of a husband or wife that paid the ultimate sacrifice defending the interests and principles of the United States of America that all men, and women should live freely. The Nine Mile March incorporated a nine mile course beginning at the National Guard Armory in Lebanon, TN to the opening day of the Wilson County Fair, reported to be one of the largest county fairs in the country with attendance exceeding over a half million people some years. 

Up until 2009, the Nine Mile March had been loosely attended, in fact Williams professed, tongue-in-cheek, “people thought I was hitchhiking”. On Veterans Day 2009, a promise was fulfilled after a challenge had been met. Master Sergeant Jim Williams challenged that if at least 100 soldiers showed up for the Annual Nine Mile Fallen Soldiers March™ in Lebanon, TN, he would march from the square in downtown Lebanon, TN along the Cherokee Nation Trail of Tears down Highway 70, to Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville, Tennessee to honor our United States Military Veterans. The Fallen Solders March “Thirty Mile March” was born! 

I asked Master Sergeant Williams if I could join him on the Thirty Mile March. I had been raised to love, respect and value our military men and women, and the sacrifices made by the Founding Fathers of our great country. I  as not prepared for the range of emotions that God had prepared for me that day as I marched alongside Sergeant Williams for nearly 12 hours, and 30 plus miles. 

Throughout the day, the radio coverage encouraged people to stop and make donations to the families of Fallen Soldiers. Many people pulled over to the side of the road with hand written notes sharing their stories of fallen family members along with charitable contributions. We were greeted by the entire West Elementary School as we migrated out of Lebanon into Mt. Juliet; receiving high fives from all of the children leaning over a cyclone fence defining a border between the school and the road. Our spirits were lifted observing the patriotism exhibited by all of the little ones! In downtown Mt. Juliet, Vietnam Vet Michael Burke of the Veterans Restoration Project, was operating a hot dog stand in front of a local Tractor Supply store, he waved us in to bless us with a complimentary hot dog and drink. Horns honked the entire day as drivers passed by us while I held the American Flag in all of its glorious colors. Two women framing their elderly father, greeted us with small American flags waving as we crossed over Briley Parkway, offering us bottled water and encouragement. The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization along this route saluted us with symbols of respect and encouragement as we moved closer towards our destination. One of the most touching events of the day involved a limo driver who held up traffic alongside a side street in downtown Nashville. He stepped outside of his vehicle, with the limo running, standing tall with his hand over his heart as we marched by him, ignoring the traffic backing up behind his vehicle as music fans ventured out to  attend the Country Music Awards Ceremony and festivities in downtown Nashville that evening.

history_2010During the entire day, I fought back tears as I began to realize the resolve and tenacity our soldiers exemplified when ordered to march all night long through a rigorous jungle, dessert and mountainous terrains; arriving at their destination not to replenish their energy with food and sleep, but to fight an enemy that was determined to terminate their existence. These men and women carried not only weapons and artillery; often they were burdened with 70+ pound packs. It was humbling to recognize that at the age of 47, and in exceptional shape, I could barely stand up on the top of the stairs at Legislative Plaza by the end of our journey because of the intense
muscle cramping that seized my legs, and nearly caused me to fall backwards down the steps. It took me several days to fully recover. 

That day was a deeply convicting spiritual experience for me. However, despite all the airplay we received over the radio and
the attention we had received along our march down highway 70, I was deeply troubled by the realization that the optimism and anticipation Master Sergeant Williams was looking forward to all day when we marched up Second Avenue towards our destination was not going to be fulfilled. Prior to crossing Broadway from the east end of Second Avenue to the west end Tourist District, Master Sergeant Williams observed a helicopter following us and was extremely excited about the prospects of people being lined up on both sides of Second Avenue, supporting our cause and making contributions to the Fallen Soldier’s families. I cautiously kept my reservations to myself. Unfortunately, my intuition was correct. There was no fanfare, nor cheers. No support along the entire march up Second Avenue, the silence was deafening. Master Sergeant Williams remained optimistic, hoping that there would be a crowd at
Legislative Plaza to greet us. My heart grieved for Master Sergeant Williams as we both realized that the only person to greet us was his
father, a retired Veteran of the United States Air Force. Despite the brief joy Master Sergeant Williams expressed towards his father for
greeting us, his countenance was crushed. 

During the drive back home, the realities haunting the reception our military men and women of Vietnam had received when returning
home to the United States, continued to grieve my soul. The iniquities committed against the men, women and children of the Cherokee Nation as they were relocated across the Trail of Lost Tears,
penetrated my superficial historical perspective of the suffering they endured. I made a personal commitment that evening, the reception Master Sergeant Williams received at the end of a very long day, would not happen next year. I committed that we would reverse the route in 2010, beginning in downtown Nashville and ending in our hometown of Lebanon, Tennessee; banking on a warmer reception in small town America. Unfortunately, Master Sergeant Williams never did participate again in the “Thirty Mile March”. However, he faithfully led the “Nine Mile March” four more years, ultimately retiring it on its ninth anniversary in 2013. Master Sergeant Williams recently retired from the Tennessee National Guard to focusing on his family and new directions.

2010
history_2010-2On Veteran’s Day 2010, Sergeant Phillip McEver, and his wife Rachel marched alongside me; supported by the protective rear vehicle escort provided by Lee Company, driven by Sergeant Jack Usher and Sergeant Josh Kimberly. As planned, we reversed our course, beginning at Legislative Plaza in Nashville, TN on Veteran’s Day and finished at the square in Downtown Lebanon, TN to honor our Veterans and members of the Cherokee Nation. The goal was to help raise the estimated $15,000+ required for the purchase of a Service Dog needed to assist a wounded Veteran who survived a 500lb JDAM bomb strike on June 27, 2010, mistakenly dropped just 6 meters from where he and his comrades were engaged in a heavy firefight in Afghanistan. The goal was ultimately realized through the collective efforts of individual patriots, area churches and businesses directly and indirectly involved in the 2010 Fallen Soldiers March™.
The blessings observed and received during the entire march were many; Tom Needham of Needhams Nursery in Mt. Juliet, TN took the initiative to set up a station across the street from his business, he and his employees greeted and served reenergize us with fruit, drinks and snacks for the remaining 15 miles remaining to our destination. Tom Needham honored us by sharing the memory of his father, Sergeant Thomas Needham, a member of “Carlson’s Raiders” in World War II, and gifted each of us with a “Buckeye” from the tree that his father loved dearly. 

Shortly after our departure from Needhams, we were greeted by a 69 year old, Retired Naval Vietnam  Nam Veteran, 2ND Class Petty Officer Raymond Preuitt. Ray had collected funds from his church congregation, marched the remaining ten miles with us, and shared his fascinating participation in the landing of the 809 Engineers to construct a road across Vietnam into Laos; used by the Marine Tank Battalion Ray helped deploy in a subsequent mission. We finished the 30 Mile March approximately eleven hours later, were greeted by over thirty patriots and helped raise the funds required for the Service Dog. Although I was deeply touched and encouraged by the improvement in the number of people who greeted the Veterans who participated in the March; my heart still remains hopeful, that one day, the entire square will be overflowing with people who recognize the sacrifices our military men, and women contribute to protect each of us and to secure freedom for future generations.

2011
history_2011On Veterans Day 2011, Lebanon Fire Fighter Chip Vanatta, approached the Fallen Soldiers March to honor the memory of a beloved family friend, Chief Warrant Officer Four Daniel Cole and his co-pilot First Lieutenant Thomas Joseph Williams of the 1-230 Air Calvary Desperados. Both pilots lost their lives engaged in the test flight of a Kiowa Helicopter in July of 2011. Chip remembers his friend to be, “a selfless individual who would have cheerfully marched alongside us to honor the memory of Fallen Soldiers, and to raise funds for fellow servicemen whose rehabilitation would be complimented by the companionship and assistance of a Service Dog”. Chip and I were joined by 64 year old Retired Air Force Viet Nam Veteran Bob Spears, and Sandra Edmonds, Regional Compliance / Director of Clinical Services for the Tennessee State Veterans Home. Veterans Day 2011 was the third year for the Fallen Soldiers March “Thirty Mile March”. Over 200 people attended the reception and we were escorted the last leg of the journey by members of the Patriot Guard Riders, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and other patriotic bikers as we approached the square of our hometown. We began with less than $100.00 contributing to the majority of our funds to a Service Dogs the previous year, seeking patriotic acts of kindness to save for an additional highly trained Service Dog costing between $15,000 to $30,000.

2012 & Beyond

In March, pro bono work was completed for a Board of Directors to govern a 501(C) (3) non-profit corporation. Brett Carter, a JAG Officer with the National Guard and Nashville Attorney continues to donate time and professional expertise to help the Fallen Solders March advance its vision.
The corner stone of the organization is built upon the Word of God communicated in John 15:13 – “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

In 2012, I wrote the President’s Dispatch, a narrative describing our vision, “The Fallen Soldiers March™ Board passionately reveres the inspired Word of God communicated by John 15:13  Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The daily examples of our United States Military personnel’s personification of the principle God spoke through John is often contrasted by our governmental paradox of rhetorically communicating heroism during active duty; yet undermining rules for engagement, compensation, healthcare and benefits desperately needed by our warriors and their families.

We strive to honor our warrior’s selfless and sacrificial actions by inspiring patriotic acts of kindness and conduct to compensate for the historical and current selfishness modeled by many in government leadership. 

Our vision is to revive and inspire patriotism across America by teaching it by example to our children. To that end, we pray that God ignites a grassfire across our great nation, inspiring an exodus from selfishness; stirring “We the people” to honor our Creator by applying in our lives the biblical principles taught by His Son Jesus and the divinely inspired providential document of the United States Constitution.

 


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