The seventh annual Tribute to the Fallen started at noon Tuesday and will finish on the Marine Corps’ anniversary, Nov. 10.
During that period, a Marine or Navy medic, called a corpsman, will circle Barton Field 24 hours a day. Each 3-mile lap is in honor of three Marines or sailors out of the roughly 1,420 killed in the Middle East. About 100 Marines and corpsmen will share the shifts, meaning several Marines will run twice in one day.
Marine Sgt. Brandon Scharer said he reads the biographies of each of the Marines he’s running for before starting a lap. It’s a big motivation on his runs, which usually take place at night or early morning.
“It’s a lonely feeling,” he said of circling Barton Field by himself early in the morning. It makes him wonder whether the fallen Marines had someone by their side when they died.
The tribute began Tuesday with formation under a bright autumn sun and a few words from Marine Capt. Clinton Armstrong. In a short speech intended to educate bystanders as much as motivate his men and women, Armstrong said the cold, wet nights and hot midday runs ahead will not be fun.
“But it’s just a small sacrifice,” compared with the blood shed by their fallen comrades, he said.
The first Marine to run received 21 rounds of ammunition from the detachment’s commanding officer, with orders to deliver them to the Nov. 10 firing detail. Those rounds will be passed on to each runner, like a baton, for the next 10 days. A 21-gun salute will take place the morning of Nov. 10.
The first run Tuesday was in honor of three Marines: Lance Cpl. Bryan Bertrand, Sgt. Nathan P. Hayes and Capt. Matthew W. Bancroft.
As Cpl. Alan Dahlke prepared to receive the rounds, he said the tribute keeps alive the memory of the fallen.
“This makes it more real,” he said.