By Camm Ashford
The Chattanooga chapter of MMMM has become one of the largest volunteer-led events in the United States to celebrate and honor the sacrifice and service of military heroes.
“Honoring the fallen…this weekend was tough but worth it,” said Squoia Holmes, a volunteer leader with the Chattanooga chapter of Team RWB. “To feel the resilience of our veterans, soliders, cadets and civilians march and honor their loved ones was sentimental.”
Team RWB is a national organization that seeks to engage veterans and active members of the military in meaningful social and physical activities to foster relationships and a renewed sense of purpose. More than 260 people are members of the Chattanooga chapter.
Following an opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m., this year’s MMMM started in downtown Gatlinburg at 9 a.m., with Military Heavy, Military Light and Civilian (non-military) entry categories.
The 26.2-mile trek included highway and rural road stretches–in addition to rugged terrain and mountain slopes–and winded through downtown Gatlinburg along Highway 321 into the Great Smoky Mountains, where more than 600 runners and marchers found spectators waiting and cheering at the finish line. Winners were recognized and prizes awarded throughout the day.
Around 15 volunteers from the Chattanooga RWB chapter provided support and encouragement for participants–which included manning water points distributed throughout the course, and supplying snacks, medical aid and additional assistance as needed.
MMMM began as a way to honor 1LT Frank B. Walkup IV, a 2005 University of Tennessee graduate and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) alumnus. Walkup was killed in action in Iraq in 2007, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Upon learning of the death of 1LT Walkup, friends and fellow cadets who knew him were looking for a way to honor his sacrifice and that of his family; and, thus, the Mountain Man Memorial March was born.
The inaugural MMMM was held in Gatlinburg in April of 2008 with cadets from the East Tennessee ROTC programs. It consisted of a 26.2 mile march with each cadet carrying a 35 pound ruck sack. The UT Ranger team carried a picture of 1LT Walkup and presented it, along with a Gold Star flag, to his mother at the completion of the event.
To learn more about Team RWB, visit teamrwb.org or facebook.com/teamrwbchattanooga.