The first mile of a Marine tribute run at Fort Gordon two weeks ago was attended by a modest number of Marines.
But at the completion of the 1,878th mile Thursday at Barton Field, the masses of Marines were joined by Army, Air Force and Navy personnel, civilians and veterans, to honor fallen military personnel.
"When we started this event, we didn't think it would take on the size it has," Capt. Barian Woodward said.
Marines organized the tribute run to remember fellow Marines and sailors who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pictures and short biographies of the fallen appeared on a projection screen on the bandstand.
"It's just wonderful, the amount of support we've gotten," said Gunnery Sgt. James Meek, a Marine Corps instructor at the fort who helped to organize the run.
"We did this because it was the right thing to do," he said.
Keeping to the Corps' "once a Marine, always a Marine" philosophy, several retirees and veterans also were there, including Ed Hammons, of Aiken, the commandant of the Marine Corps League of South Carolina.
"Forty years ago, I used to look like you," he said. "I commend you ladies and gentlemen. What you've done today is nothing short of a miracle."
Using blank rounds of ammunition carried around the field by Marines 24 hours a day for two weeks, personnel fired a 21-gun salute, which was followed by taps.
The rounds were carried in a burgundy pouch embroidered with a Marine Corps seal.
The run came to an end on the 230th anniversary of the Marine Corps' founding, and the day before Veterans Day.
It also gave one Marine a chance to continue his commitment to the corps.
Gunnery Sgt. Fernando Garcia took his oath of re-enlistment from Capt. Woodward toward the end of ceremonies and before the singing of the Marine Corps hymn.
Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or firstname.lastname@example.org.