MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina -- Marines with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, participated in a “Sapper 50” memorial run at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 4, 2016, to honor 29 fallen Marines from the unit during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The 29 dog tags from the fallen Marines were passed from Marine to Marine every five miles until the 50-mile run was completed.
“The ceremony in the morning was powerful when the battalion commander read off the names of the fallen. I personally served with several of the Marines. I was friends with three,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Manning, a combat engineer with 2nd CEB. “Hearing their names read, then seeing that dog tag placed on the neck of a current CEB Marine that would run the route was a pretty powerful experience. It’s like we still carry those guys with us and their legacy is still a part of this unit.”
Nearly 300 Marines from the battalion volunteered to jointly run the 50 miles. For the final mile the Marines, family members, and friends all walked together to complete the event.
“I didn’t know how the Marines were going to react to it because it was on a Saturday, but we were flooded. Marines just came and signed up. That was great to see,” said Capt. Alfred Habib, a combat engineer officer with the battalion. “The Marines wanted to do it. They wanted to be here. A lot of the junior Marines did not know the fallen Marines but they’re part of our legacy and they want to honor them.”
The Marines thought they were signing up for a run but after attending they understood it was something more. Lieutenant Colonel Gary McCullar, Commanding Officer of 2ndCEB, said some of the young Marines didn’t fully understand why the battalion set up this run until they witnessed the opening ceremony.
“The way we did the opening ceremony with the dog tags, calling the fallen Marines name out followed by one of the Marines going up and receiving the dog tag, I think solidified the message that I wanted them to understand,” McCullar said.
The run was primarily intended to honor the fallen Marines of the battalion, but also to teach the Marines about the ultimate sacrifice and 2nd CEB history.
“I wanted everybody in this battalion to know that the pictures on our walls and the engraved names on the stone monument outside of our battalion were our Marines,” said McCullar. “They were members of 2nd CEB and they died answering the call, ‘engineers up.’”