This year will be my second year to attend the MMMM. The whole town stops for a weekend to honor our sons/daughters that gave all. My son Sgt.Lance Eakes loved to run, so this the is a great way to honor him.Thank You all for remembering our heroes.
2012 was our first year participating in the Mountain Man Memorial March even though we had been a Gold Star family for 3 1/2 years by then. I was unsure of what to expect; I knew what my fellow American Gold Star Mothers had told me but I was still hesitant. Showing and sharing grief of this magnitude to a small group of people who’ve lived through the same experience is one thing, showing it to a MUCH larger group of people on a public platform would take more courage than I believed that I had. But always foremost in my mind is to never let Christopher’s name be forgotten, to never let his sacrifice be taken for granted.
I never could have dreamed how moving, powerful and humbling the entire Mountain Man Memorial March experience would be for us. The sheer magnitude of the event was something that no words could ever describe, it is an experience that must be lived to be understood. That this many people would come together to help remember and honor our fallen children and their sacrifice is a wonderful thing. From the moment it was over I began looking forward to the next years event. My deepest gratitude to the people who make this all possible each year and in particular to Lt. Cmdr. Bob Cosby, who gives his blood, sweat, blisters and tears so that Christopher’s name is spoken aloud on that weekend.
A GOLD STAR MOTHER’S
MOUNTAIN MAN MEMORIAL MARCH
JANUARY 13, 2013
As I reflect on my memories of Mountain Man Memorial March, the first thought that must be stated is that this is by far my favorite event of the year. I would even venture to say that most of the Gold Star Families that have attended this outstanding event would be in agreement with me.
I first started attending this event in 2011. Each time I was given a beautiful room at no expense to me that overlooked a enchanted creek with rushing water (some families even got a fireplace). The sound of rushing water immediately brought my shattered heart a sense of peace and tranquility. Moreover, your surrounded by the GreatSmokeyMountains. Each time I was greeted with loving and caring University of Tennessee ROTC cadets and volunteers from the American Legion and ETVA. They looked after my every need and made me feel welcomed. I was given the opportunity to eat free or at a discounted rate at several locations throughout Gatlinburg. Moreover, there was time to shop at various locations in Gatlinburg at a discounted rate.
The marathon is a grueling event that is not for the faint of heart. I was so humbled to see these young men and women run in honor of our Fallen Soldiers. In most case, they never knew our Fallen Heroes. At the end of the event, there is a ceremony for awards that is powerful and emotional. In 2012, Don Tipton ran for Ryan. Don is a retired military man who is now a fire-fighter. He had just spent a week prior to the event battling a mulch fire. He started this race with blisters already on his feet. This unpretentious and modest man completed the entire heavy 26.2 mile run. He honored me by allowing me to cross the finish line with him. After the event, I learned he lost the soles of his feet from the fire and from participating in the run. He ran for Ryan and didn’t think twice nor did he complain. Don never met Ryan, and his participation has been an inspiration. He will be running for him this year, and I am truly blessed to have him on my team.
One of the benefits of attending this event is meeting other Gold Star Families. This is an opportunity to love, laugh, share in memories of our Fallen Hero, and grieve. This past year, I invited two Gold Star mothers whose sons were Rangers, as well. The March has provided me the opportunity to meet other families and establish life long friendships. Each year, more and more families come to this even to have their Hero honored and to meet other Gold Star Families. In having fellowship with others, one finds you are not alone in this life long journey of loss. It has been written and said by so many other Gold Star Family members, “This is not a club we wished to join”. Attending this event brought me happiness, well-being, and some relief from a broken heart…if only the relief from the pain is for a little while. Thank you to all who work and volunteer their services for the Mountain Man Memorial Walk.
Sherrie Battle McGhee
Gold Star Mother
Cpl Ryan C. McGhee
US Army Ranger – KIA 5/13/2009 (Iraq).
The MMMM at Gatlinburg has become such a special annual honor to go to. I first went two years ago since my son WO1 Judson E. Mount was Fallen. It is a great honor for Jud and the others. A team specially running,marching just in my sons honor ! A great feeling all around you with so many at this March making ti so special and caring of your loved one Fallen. The ceremony Friday night is so moving to see one by one the honored families giving flag to marchers. Everyone involved in the March make you feel so special for the sacrifice of your child for Our Country and our Freedom.
The large crowd Saturday for the “Send Off” of the Marchers is fantastic with such a a large crowd of supporters. I watch as the Marcher with Jud’s picture is on his backpack, knowing what an honor for Jud. I know Jud is watching from above and proud too. IT is a very hard and long 26 miles and both years Mark Vines has marched in Jud’s honor. HE has already signed up again for this year to March in Juds honor. Mark and I have become great friends that first year and stay in touch . I have also meet so many other Gold Star Families from many different Cites.
The Sat. night ceremony is also very moving as you go forward and are given back the flag that has finished the March. The ROTC supporters of the March make you feel so welcome, accomodate you with any needs thru out the two days. Food, and meeting others , hotel provided , all in your Fallen Soldiers honor It makes you feel so special, and honored for your child’s “Supreme Sacrifice”
We look forward to the Mountain Man Memorial March every year. The Opening Ceremony is so respectful and heartwarming. Meeting our team for that year is a major highlight. They are always very dedicated to honoring and remembering Daniel. The morning of the march, we make a point of finding our team and wishing them a safe journey. I also tell them a little about Daniel to make their hard work a little more personal. I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with my UTK team from 2010. They will drop by my office on campus just to say hello. Thank you to everyone involved in the MMMM – leaders, cadets, and volunteers.
Our family has been involved with MMMM for 4 years. Each year we are impressed with the level of commitment by the ROTC program at the University of Tennessee, the graciousness of the Walkup family and the love and support from the marchers and volunteers. All around, it is a feel good, feel proud weekend. Of course I’m not beating my feet and knees up so of course I feel good. Really, all kidding aside. This is an incredible course for the participants. My husband has participated twice in the full 26.2 (or more) miles up and down the hills of the Smoky Mountains, and once as a 10k participant. When you gather in the room with all the volunteers and participants the energy level is electrifying. The teams that have marched in my son’s honor and memory are truly emotionally connected to exemplifying the memory and honoring the sacrifice. In the past our teams have included family from Massachusetts, Florida, and Tennessee as well as Appalachian State University. Every year our family looks forward to gathering in Gatlinburg, whether in a cabin or the MMMM hotel, to catch up with other Gold Star Families, our college team mates from years past, and of course making new friends and honoring our Fallen. My son, Lcpl. William C. Koprince, Jr., loved hiking the Smoky Mountains with his dad and family.
How appropriate this event is in honoring and remembering him.
Proud Mother of Lcpl. William C. Koprince, Jr. KIA 12/27/06