Marines to hike 81 miles over Labor Day weekend to honor Fallujah heroes


A group of Marine reservists are leading a three-day, 81 mile hike in Florida this weekend to honor those who died in the Battle of Fallujah in 2004.

A group of Marines, leading an 81-mile hike in Florida to honor those who died fighting in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, stand with their governor. From left to right: Cpl. Larry Rubino, Staff Sgt. Denis Vanegas, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Capt. Jason Wetherington, Capt. Chris Troken and Maj. Charleston Malkemus.
(Courtesy of Maj. Charleston Malkemus)

Maj. Charleston Malkemus, an infantry officer who fought in the infamous Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, carries a flag he received from a Marine who was killed in action. He said he now displays it in his company office to remind other Marines of their commitment to uphold the expectations of their brothers-in-arms. And this weekend, he will carry the flag 81 miles as he helps lead a hike from West Palm Beach to Miami.

“Picking up a flag and carrying it forward into battle has been an act of inspiration for ages,” Malkemus said. “When my fellow Marine died and I received his flag, I wasn’t only entrusted to carry on his spirit, but to ensure that I carried it forward into greatness.”

Marines who work together at a tech startup in Florida will hike from West Palm Beach to Miami to honor those lost in the 2004 Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. From left to right: Scott Gilmore, Capt. Chris Troken, Staff Sgt. Denis Vanegas, Maj. Charleston Malkemus and Capt. Jason Wetherington

Hiking with Malkemus will be four other Marines. They met during a tour of duty at Marine Corps Forces South in Miami, he said. Now they work together at Malkemus’ Miami tech start-up called Gozump.

Malkemus said having experienced the fight in Fallujah made him want to honor those who didn’t make it back. What started as small team effort to make the hike that amounts to more than three marathons has gotten others interested. Now he said he estimates that about 50 people will spend Labor Day weekend hiking in 95 degree heat to honor those who lost their lives in battle.

“According to our count, 81 died during the two major offensives of the battle of Fallujah,” he said. “We hope [the hike]begins to rouse the community. The next greatest generation of America is about to come home, so we see this as only the beginning.”

Those interested in joining can check the hikers’ location and status on social media. They’ll be updating their Facebook page and Tweeting along the way.

And they invite members of the communities they pass through to walk with them — even if they don’t complete the whole hump.

“Think of all the men and women that have entrusted you to carry on their flag,” Malkemus said. “Get out and join us, even if only for a block or two.”


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