BISMARCK, N.D. —Family members, friends and service members gathered Sunday, June 6, to participate in a 9-mile Memorial March in remembrance of all North Dakota National Guard service members killed in action during the Global War on Terrorism or are currently serving in the military.
The third annual march began at the Global War on Terrorism Memorial at Fraine Barracks at 9:38 a.m., the exact time two members of the 1-188th Air Defense Artillery Security Forces (188th ADA- SECFOR) were killed in action on June 6, 2006. Sgt. Travis A. Van Zoest, 21, and Spc. Curtis R. Mehrer, 21, were riding in a vehicle that struck an improvised explosive device while on duty in Afghanistan. The march ended at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.
Other Soldiers of the 188th ADA-SECFOR killed in action were Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron, 25, Mandaree, N.D., and Cpl. Christopher K. Kleinwatcher, 29, Wahpeton, N.D. The 188th ADA-SECFOR was mobilized from Dec. 2005 until April 2007 and served a year in Afghanistan.
Joyce Mehrer, mother of Curtis Mehrer, and Sheila Richter, mother of Travis Van Zoest, help ensure that the march takes place every year. “The first year it was started by the 188th and we’ve just kept it going as so many of them are deployed,” said Richter. “It’s held every first Sunday in June to honor all Soldiers who have served, are serving, and who were lost.”
The walk was not only held in Bismarck this year as Soldiers are stationed in several places around the world. “Soldiers are doing the walk in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Mehrer. “They are doing it in memory of them.”
Mehrer and Richter wanted to emphasize that the march was not just in memory of the fallen. “It started as a ruck march to remember the four boys but it’s for all Service Members,” said Mehrer. “There are people here with family in all branches, it’s not just for the 188th but for all service members.”
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 600 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.
High-resolution photos of the Memorial March in Kosovo are available on Flickr: