GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- Hundreds of Sailors and Marines gathered in the hangar bay of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) to participate in a two-hour self-paced march in memory of friends and shipmates who could no longer join the march themselves, May 28.
From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., Boxer Sailors and Marines marched between the upper vehicle storage area and the flight deck, wearing combat boots and military gear to pay tribute to service members who lost their lives in the line of duty.
"Even though we're deployed, we can still show our support on Memorial Day as a reminder that it's not just about barbecues and having a good time," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Hailey Johnson. "It's about remembering people who passed away serving their country."
Memorial Day offers Americans a chance to honor the legacies, actions and memories of the brothers- and sisters-in-arms who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Led by Lt. Brandy Brown, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit chaplain, Boxer crew members fought exhaustion and humid temperatures to march, pausing only to read story boards profiling the memories of fallen service members.
"We wanted to do a ruck march to honor those who have fallen and can no longer carry their own ruck," said Brown. "We wanted to dedicate this event to bring the focus back to Memorial Day."
The course of the ruck march started in the hangar bay, moved up the access ramp to the flight deck, circled the entire flight deck, then dropped back down to the well deck, and returned to the hangar bay.
"The ruck packs represent the weight that our fallen brothers and sisters can no longer carry," said Brown. "We carry their weight for them in our memory."
Participants chose how heavy a load to carry, and packs varied in size from small backpacks to full-sized loads.
As the procession ascended to the flight deck, participants observed memorial pages posted along the bulkhead that contained photos and stories of fallen service members submitted by a Sailor or Marine who knew them personally.
"A military member who pays the ultimate sacrifice and has kept America safe should always be remembered for the sacrifice they gave," said Brown, as tears welled in her eyes. "The story boards are a way for people who have lost a loved one or a friend to remember and share their story with everyone. Everybody out on the ruck march will know these people's stories."
Approximately 80 story boards were posted as reminders of a lost friend, Marine, or shipmate.
"It really impacted me, because I know one of the corpsmen who passed away," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Lesley Palencia. "Having his picture there and seeing people read his story, I was touched by it all."
Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
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