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Pa. National Guard hosts eighth annual March for the Fallen

By Sgt. 1st Class HollyAnn Nicom | Sept. 30, 2019

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. —

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa.—Approximately 700 participants gathered for the eighth annual March for the Fallen September 28, 2019 at Fort Indiantown Gap.

The annual March is held to honor and reflect on the sacrifices of fallen service members. The event featured 28 mile and 14 mile marches, a 5K walk/run and a 28-mile hand cycle course.

Regardless of the course, participants were able to compete in a “heavy” or “light” category- with or without a 35lb pack, respectively. The courses were designed to encourage both military and civilians with all mobility skill levels to participate.

Pennsylvania Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli spoke to the crowd during the opening ceremony, recognizing the Gold Star and surviving family members and attesting to the sacrifices made by fallen service members.

“If you look to your left, you can see the start of the sunrise, and that’s the sun rising over a free country,” said Carrelli. “The people we march in honor of and the families that sacrificed so much, it is because of them that today began a day here in the United States in freedom.”

A few surviving family members assisted with an inaugural dedication of the Honor and Remember flag, marking the first time this symbolic flag was flown over Fort Indiantown Gap. Carrelli explained that after the March for the Fallen event was over, the Honor and Remember flag would be flown daily at the Pa. National Guard Headquarters building.

“[The Adjutant General] has been a tremendous supporter of our surviving families during his tenure”, said Martin Rafalko, Survivor Outreach Services Support coordinator. “We have been trying to get this flag to be flown here for seven years and with [The Adjutant General’s] direct involvement, we now have a brand new flag pole at Strickler Field on which to fly this flag.”

Names and photos of fallen service members were present on a wall of remembrance located on Strickler Field near the event starting point and out at course mile markers. Many surviving families attended and some also participated in the challenging events while wearing names and photos of the fallen on their clothing, backpacks and signs.

“One of the hardest things for a surviving family member, whether it’s a spouse or a sibling or a parent, is that our loved one is forgotten and their sacrifice isn’t remembered”, said Gold Star Mother Karen Mojecki, a Harrisburg resident who lost her son in Iraq. “Here, it’s a safe area where our family members are remembered and we can talk about them; that is such a gift.”

John McCurdy, a native of Harrisburg, was the winner of the male “light”14 Miler. McCurdy runs long distance three or four times a week and it was his first time participating in the March for the Fallen.

“I have a friend who’s in the guard and we run together sometimes, so he invited me to run it this year with him,” said McCurdy. “And for the good cause, of course, for the benefit of the families of those who have fallen.”

Participants competed individually or as a team to complete the challenging courses. Part of the terrain was hilly and rocky, causing many participants to pay close attention to their footing.

Master Sgt. Jason Flenner, a native of Carlisle, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the March for the Fallen this year.

“This was a nine to ten month planning process and I think it went really well,” said Flenner. “Participation is the highest it’s been and I think that had to do with the planning efforts that they put into it.”

“It was nice to see all the participation,” said Flenner.