EDWARDS AFB – It’s commonly said that the most valuable gift we can give to another is our time, especially when it’s spent marching through 11.5 miles of steep and rocky, desert terrain in remembrance of those who have served.
For more than 30 participants, that opportunity arose during a ruck march held March 4 to honor fallen Defenders of U.S. Air Force Security Forces and law enforcement . The ruck march began at the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance building by Camp Corum and ended at the communications tower near the edge of Rosamond, perpendicular to the Edwards AFB sign on the west side of base.
“Our job is inherently dangerous so taking the time to come out here to remember those who have fallen not only in combat- or duty-related incidents, but also in some form of tragedy, is only fitting. We are usually one of the largest squadrons on any given base which increases the likelihood of us having some type of tragedy occur in our squadron,” said Capt. Jose Garcia, 412th SFS acting commander. “At some point, it’s only appropriate for us to take the time to recognize those folks that may not often be recognized in public. I really appreciated everyone who showed up and participated in today’s event.”
For one of the ruck march organizers, the event held a greater significance since it was a way to initiate something for all and carry on the legacy of a fellow, fallen wingman.
“This event was very personal to me. Last year, a senior airman who I worked with at Malmstrom Air Force Base, [Mont.,] passed away due to very sudden circumstances. I thought he deserved more recognition for his service, so I decided to create a ruck march in his honor,” said 1st Lt. Don Kempf, 412th SFS operations officer. “The ruck expanded from there, and it became an opportunity for anyone to honor somebody who has served and passed away, regardless of the circumstances of their deaths.”
For other marchers, the event was also used as an opportunity to remember and pay tribute to their fellow wingmen as well.
“A friend of mine was killed in the line of duty and I came here to march in honor of him today,” said James Bigger, 412th Communications Squadron Quality Control Section. “We should always take the time to remember those who’ve passed in the line of duty or off duty no matter what line of work you’re in”
Participants of the ruck march included people from the Personnel Section, the 412th Maintenance Group, the 412th Communications Squadron, the U.S. Marshals Service, to include two retired Defenders and Defenders from the 412th SFS.
“There were no requirements to participate; the event was open to anyone who wanted show support,” said Tech. Sgt. Jaqualene Taylor, 412th SFS unit deployment manager said. “I would definitely recommend this event to the base community, because it is a great opportunity to come together to tell a small part of the security forces story and the people behind it. This event builds moral and shows the base that we support each other 24/7.”
“Well, since I’m a Reservist for the 412th SFS, I found out about the event and I wanted to come out here and support it as fellow law enforcement,” added Deputy Zach Tyler, U.S. Marshals Service.
Of the more than 30 personnel that took part in the ruck march, Kempf noted that all were given a black ribbon to don during the 11.5-mile march that began at the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance building, ended atop the mountain with the communications tower near the edge of Rosamond, Calif., and perpendicular to the Edwards AFB sign.
“After researching how many people have passed from under these circumstances, the numbers were astounding. In most cases, these fellow defenders didn’t receive a plaque on a wall,” said Kempf. “Everyone usually knows someone that has been affected by a fellow coworker who has passed, that’s why we gave out the black ribbons today…to keep someone in mind.”