JOINT BASE ANACOASTIA-BOLLING, D.C. –
More than 230 service members, civilians and family members participated in the inaugural Team JBAB Memorial March, May 23.
According to Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin “Jake” Higginbotham, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s command senior enlisted leader, the memorial march was envisioned as a way to remember fallen service members and Defense Department civilians.
“Today, we acknowledge and honor the sacrifices of those who have died while serving this country,” said Higginbotham, during opening remarks before the march began.
The idea for the Team JBAB Memorial March came after Scott Wirtz, an operations support specialist for DIA, was killed during a terrorist attack in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16. A few days after the DIA workforce learned they had lost one of their own, one employee suggested to Higginbotham that they put together an event to honor Wirtz and others who died serving their country.
“Memorial Day weekend isn’t about barbecues and four-day weekends,” he said. “It's about remembering those that paid that sacrifice.”
Participants enjoyed a scenic view of several D.C. monuments as they made their way along the course. Some walked or ran one mile. Others marched six miles. A select few opted to march two laps around the six-mile course. Regardless of how far they traveled or when they finished, everyone received a certificate of appreciation and a sincere thank you.
“There are no finishers’ medals, there are no places,” Higginbotham said. “We don't care what time you finish; we just care that you're here. We absolutely appreciate each and every one of you for participating in this event today.”
Jenna Ettlich learned about the Team JBAB Memorial March just days before the event, when she happened to see a sign at the medical clinic. The event immediately caught her attention because she loves to go for long runs with her husband, who currently serves in the U.S. Navy. Even though he was away on a work trip, Jenna still wanted to participate, so she signed herself up to do the six-mile run and signed three of her sons – ages 14, 11 and nine – for the one-mile run.
“We participated to help refocus on what the meaning of Memorial Day is,” Ettlich said. “I think it's important to allow kids to understand that there are real people, fallen soldiers and sailors, that make this holiday what it is.”
While the event was primarily for Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling personnel, seven family members from American Gold Star Mothers also participated in the march. Before the festivities kicked off, each of the Gold Star Mothers was presented a bouquet of flowers.
“I want to thank each and every one of you for being here today,” said Becky Christmas, national president of American Gold Star Mothers. “That means you care. That means you get it. This is what Memorial Day is all about, to remember our loved ones, our fallen."