In Navarre, Florida, The Black Hawk Memorial pays tribute to the seven Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Raiders and four members of the Louisiana National Guard who were killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise on March 10, 2015. “They’re not just names, they’re families,” said Daniel Campbell, Second Lieutenant, of the children, wives, and fiancées of the fallen heroes he had only recently returned from Afghanistan with.
Since 2007, 47 MARSOC Marines and Sailors have lost their lives in service to our Nation. To support the families left behind and commemorate his fellow Raiders, Campbell created Rucking for Raiders. The Black Hawk Memorial is the last stop on what has become an annual memorial march. Each year, over 45 supporters hike over 209 miles with a weighted backpack from Auburn University in Alabama to Navarre, Florida. “It has been humbling to see the response from the community,” said Campbell of the support from the surviving family members, Marines, Sailors, Midshipmen of the Auburn University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), and Naval Aviators.
“Each year, we put ourselves in a situation to humanize the loss from our small community.” He went on to describe the tears, hugs, and emotional responses of the families each year and the camaraderie between his brothers and sisters in arms as they see examples of the families they are going to be responsible for in their careers. This May 5th-10th, Rucking for Raiders will go virtual due to the travel restrictions for active-duty service members and civilians in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To memorialize the lives of MARSOC’s 47 fallen heroes, participants are encouraged to complete 47 miles in 47 hours or less either with or without a 47-pound “ruck” or pack. Campbell and Staff Sergeant Brandon Kay, who is spearheading the event this year, are each leading small groups while maintaining social distancing across the 47-mile challenge.
The 4th Annual Rucking for Raiders Memorial March will be completed by over 52 members from 35 states. Campbell and Kay believe that this first-ever virtual event will allow even more people to join. Since 2017, Rucking for Raiders has raised more than $50,000 for the Marine Raider Foundation. Tragedy Assistance and Survivor Support is one of four main programs of the Marine Raider Foundation’s mission, with a focus on the needs of Gold Star Families. The Foundation ensures that surviving family members stay connected to the Raider community and provides financial assistance for funerals, commemorative events, emergency childcare, and other resources. To help reach this year’s goal of raising $15,000 for the Marine Raider Foundation, supporters can purchase apparel or choose to donate. Campbell and Kay encourage participants to sign-up virtually by purchasing a patch, messaging Rucking for Raiders on Facebook, and joining Strava Club to share the miles you accumulate as a family in honor of MARSOC’s 47 fallen heroes.