ONSLOW COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A 900-mile march ended Friday in Onslow County for a group of 30 service members.
The Marine Raider Memorial March started in Greenwood, Mississippi on July 14 where a KC-130 aircraft crashed killing all 16 crew members last July including seven from Camp Lejeune.
The final 4.2 mile leg started this morning at Stump Sound Park in Sneads Ferry at 8:45 and ended at the MARSOC Command Center for the final ceremony at 11:30. Hundreds of people came out to make the final walk with the ruckers up to the gate at Camp Lejeune.
The group carried a paddle with all 16 names and soil from the crash site along the whole journey. They will be planting a dogwood tree with the soil at the ending ceremony at Camp Lejeune.
“It was probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, physically, mentally, emotionally,” widow Sara Leach said.
Leach has walked all 900 miles across 5 states all to honor her late husband Sgt. Talon Leach who was on that flight. She said it has been challenging, but all of the supporters along the way, strangers she has never met have made every mile worth it.
“For them to say they have watched from day one, the accident unfold,” Leach said. “They’ve watched the best that they can, our journeys through social media, through the news, through whatever and for them to sit there and look at us and say and look us in the eyes and give us hugs and say your husbands’ deaths meant something to us, they hurt us as well. We are hurting with you. It gives you hope.”
Gayle Murray also lost her husband, Sgt. Joseph Murray, on the flight. Murray and Leach walked together every mile during the memorial march.
“Five of us have been carrying the American flags that were actually draped over them by the first responders when they were first found,” Murray said.
While the journey was challenging, the man behind the march, Nathan Harris, says it really wasn’t hard.
“I think that every single person that’s involved believes so much in the mission of bringing the brothers home, honoring them and putting a face behind the number honestly we haven’t felt like it’s been hard,” Harris said.
If you ask any of them what was the best part, many would say it was people they have met along the way.
“One of the guys from the crash’s mom actually came by and gave all three of us hugs, the guys that were on my team, wiped the sweat off of us and she’s like oh my god I love y’all’s sweat,” Garrett Schluter, rucker, said. “I love you so much.”
It was the families, strangers, and the hundreds of people who showed up in the rain and shine to talk the final four miles to bring the brothers and their legacies home.