Heat halts Nijmegen march

Sgt. Chris Higginbotham
Sgt. Chris Higginbotham

***image1***The planned four-day march beginning July 18 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, was canceled following the first day due to excessively hot weather which was blamed in the deaths of two participants and medical problems for hundreds of other marchers.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever donea said Spec. Timothy Day, one of the 10 Soldiers from the 21st Theater Support Command who entered the event officially known as the International Four Days Marches at Nijmegen. 
“I can’t be angry about the event being canceled, because it was done in the interest of safety, and I respect that decision.”  

The Nijmegen March is the largest marching event in the world.  Military and civilian participants walk anywhere from 100 to 200 kilometers over the four-day event (military participants must march 160 kilometers).  The march is popular among military personnel worldwide because of its roots as a military training exercise.

Day one of the 90th annual march was one of the most grueling days in the history of the event.

Some 49,000 marchers attempted to cover the 26-mile stretch, with the military teams required to carry 22 pounds of weight, in 100-plus degree heat.

Only four U.S. military teams participating in the march were able to finish in the allotted 12-hour time period on day one.  Yet, all 10 members of the 21st TSC team finished in time.

As hard as day one was, the cancellation announcement triggered some feelings of disappointment.

“After all we did to train, I really wanted to try to finish,” said Spec. Sebastien Raseman of the 21st TSC intelligence section.  “I don’t know if I would have made it, but I definitely wanted to try.”    

Many marchers remained in Nijmegen to participate in the ongoing festivities downtown.  Military members spent July 19 visiting with foreign servicemembers to trade things such as uniforms and equipment.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get to finish, but I don’t think many people would have finished in this heat.  I guess the best thing you can hope for is a few decent souvenirs,” said British Cadet Flight Sergeant Fraser Downer as he negotiated a trade for a U.S. Airborne beret.  The bartering got so intense many Soldiers were left wondering what they would wear to work.

Many of the 21st TSC marchers won’t be able to participate in next year’s march due to PCS and separation dates, but Specialist Raseman is determined to go back.

“I’m going to finish that march.  It’s going to hurt and I’m going to get a crazy profile afterward, but I will finish,” he said.