When my alarm went off at 0420, the last thing I wanted to do was get up and go for a 20km march after working a full week at the hospital. "Why do I get myself into these situations?" I thought to myself as I tried to find every ounce of motivation inside of me to get up. This morning, I made my way with a group of friends to Goronne, Belgiuim where we would march 20 kilometers of a route that the 82nd Airborne Division took when they were passing through Europe. The weather didn't look promising, my legs had already been aching from working shifts, and I'd slept for only four hours. With every movement I made this morning, I kept asking myself, "how do I get myself into these things?"
I give my respect to those people who can get up and walk 12 miles every morning just for fun, but walking outside was the last thing I wanted to do. I thought I would be spending my entire Saturday lounging in my pajamas on my couch, hot cocoa in hand, and watching Friends (please, don't judge me, for it is only my 4th time watching the entire series over again). I slept most of the way to Belgium. When I woke up we were already trying to look for parking at the starting point. The weather still didn't look too promising, but it was perfect for the 12 mile march.
When we got there, so many people were dressed up in their battle uniforms. There were Soldiers from different countries like Germany, Belgium, and I think I even saw Luxembourg there. Which surprises me because I didn't think that Luxembourg had a military force like that. Then of course, there was the large group of Americans that were there in support of our brothers of the 82nd. The atmosphere was pretty motivating to be honest. Seeing everyone participating in a memorial march kind of gave you a feeling of a very strong tradition or legacy, and to know we were a part of that now... It definitely made you feel like you were a part of something much bigger than yourself. Especially with people being there to walk in memory of their grandfathers, THAT was pretty impressive.
The terrain we walked on varied. We started out on pavement, and then found ourselves in fields covered in mud and cow pies. It was different from what I imagined it would be. We were in the middle of fields and forests a majority of the time. We constantly found ourselves fighting the slick, deep mud for our shoes and our footing. About 75% of the hike was at a steep incline, and then the rest was either flat pavement, or very steep declines. I think I got enough of a workout for two days worth of rest. Along the way, there were snack/beverage stations (mostly alcoholic, haha) at miles 3, 6, and 9. We skipped the station at mile 3 and kept pushing. At mile 6, we took a break and grabbed lunch. There were people from the town there selling bratwursts, hamburgers, Belgian waffles, beers, and then the organization who put the event together had free minestrone soup. We didn't stay too long, but we stayed long enough to catch a glimpse of what the field hospitals looked like back in the day.
When we were on our way to finish the second half, I felt my body starting to ache. By mile 8, my legs were pretty much numb to all the pain I was feeling, and my body felt like it went into auto-pilot mode. So it actually hurt more to stop and take a break than it did to keep going. Along this route, there were more and more stations by people who were dressed and perched in fox holes, and medic stations. I think the set up of the route was great, and one of the stations let us jump in to take photos with their rifles. At mile 9, we stopped at the memorial dedicated to those who walked the route in 1944. It really makes you think about what you signed up for when you joined the Army. History goes a long way.
By mile 10, every decline we came to, we decided that it was easier for us to run down it. At one point I started humming cadences to myself just to keep myself motivated. No, I'm not Airborne. Yes, my babes is. Maybe, just maybe I might try to get my wings. One day when I am "volun-told" to live in Fort Bragg. But that's if and only if, that ever happens.
Our motivation in the beginning was to stay with the American Flag. There was Soldier who brought a very large flag with him and carried it the entire way. At our halfway point, our motivation was a cute, fluffy dog who just seemed so happy to have been going on a long walk with his owner. At the end of the march, we finished with the American flag in sight. We were greeted with a delicious serving of Gluhwein, and a certificate saying we participated in this great event. My knees are aching, and I may be very tired. But like I was telling Allison, "this wasn't paved back then, and they didn't get to rest afterwards, how do you think they felt?!" I have to suck it up and know that my brothers from the past had it much, much worse than we have it today. And I can only be grateful to share and dedicate these memories to them.
Mother truckin' Army Strong, hooah. (Okay, I felt undeniably TOO hooah today, and now I will go back to icing my knees and watching friends.) Thanks for inviting me Allie. We have to add more to our bucket list of historical adventures!