JROTC Cadets march to honor fallen heroes


Honor Through Action, the motto of the Mountain Man Memorial March, came to fruition, on April 20, 2024, when two teams of five Cadets each marched to honor American warriors who were killed in action (KIA) while serving their country.

Sponsored by the non-profit group Legacies Alive and the American Legion Post 2, in Knoxville, the Mountain Man Memorial March allows willing participants to run or march distance of either 5 km (3.1 miles), 10 km (6.2 miles), a half-marathon (13.1 miles) or for the truly hardcore a full marathon of 26.2 miles. Instead of simply holding a remembrance ceremony, participants remember the fallen through partaking in a physically challenging endurance event. Likewise, participants can choose to either run the identified distance or march, with or without, a 35-pound ruck sack.

Select Cadets from the JROTC “Warrior Battalion” participated in the JROTC Team category requiring them to complete the half-marathon distance. While the JROTC Cadets marched in honor of service members provided by the Legacies Alive organization, the JROTC instructors honored fellow service members during the march. Lt. Col. Aaron Johnson marched in honor of PFC T.J. Hewett, who was killed in Iraq, and SFC Jason Moore marched in honor of his uncle, Gerald “Jerry” Kosakowski, who was killed in Vietnam and friend SFC Christopher Celiz with whom SFC Moore had previously served.

The Mountain Man Memorial March (M4) is in its 17th year of holding the event, in Gatlinburg. The M4 began in 2008 by the ROTC Cadets from the University of Tennessee “Rocky Top Battalion” upon learning that a UT-K ROTC Alumni 1st Lt. Frank B. Walkup IV had been killed in action, in Iraq. What started 17 years ago as a small event has grown immensely over the years. Annually, active service members, military retirees, Gold Star families of those killed in action, and both Junior and Senior ROTC throughout the region participate in M4. This year, participating Senior ROTC programs include, but are not limited to, the University of Tennessee, Appalachian State, Carson-Newman University, the University of Illinois, Iowa State, Western Kentucky, and Tennessee Tech just to name a few. Participating Junior ROTC programs included Cadets from Oakland High School, in Murfreesboro, Bearden High School, in Knoxville, and of course the mighty “Warrior Battalion,” of White County.

“We are very proud of our Cadets. It’s not every day you can find 10 highly motivated teenagers to march 13.1 miles through the Great Smoky Mountains,” said the Warrior Battalion’s Senior Army Instructor Lt. Col. Aaron Johnson. “This is our second year participating in M4, and most of the Cadets are repeats from last year, with only a couple who are new. It says a lot about the dedication and quality of participating Cadets. The march is no joke. There are some steep hills and walking 13.1 miles is nothing to laugh at. To do it once is an accomplishment, but to do it twice shows commitment to honor those who served and gave their lives in their service to their country.”

The Warrior Battalion hopes to continue to participate in the Mountain Man Memorial March as long as the JROTC instructors can find Cadets willing to participate. Based on the results, with both teams beating their finishing times from last year, finding motivated Cadets won’t be an issue.           


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