Weather – Cold Sunny 25 degrees. 75% humidity
14 PAX – Sump Pump, Alexa, Meter Maid, Airplane, Skid, McCoy (R, FNG), Huggies (Q), Jitterbug (R), Maize, Catfish, Diablo, Momma’s Boy, Fungi, Chestnut
I’ll start with how this all came together. I was in a time pinch trying to get this project off the ground. We’ve been doing these GoRuck Club callouts the past few months to earn morale patches and this month’s callout was in conjunction with the Travis Manion foundation operation legacy. I literally had 2 hours to come up with a community service project idea, a date/time/location, and a fallen soldier to honor. I texted and called guys on a Friday morning to come up with something but received minimal responses due to the time crunch and it being a work day. I finally googled “fallen soldiers from Louisville” and came across Marine Sgt. David N. Wimberg who died in combat operations, May 25th 2005 in Iraq. We had the same first name and would have been about the same age so I went with him. Little did I know, that he was a close friend of one of our most prolific ruckers Skid (Kyle Brown). Skid invited Mrs Tricia Wimberg, Sgt. Wimberg’s mother, who brought us hot chocolate after our ruck and was such an inspirational part of our day.
The community service project plan was to deliver coats to the Wayside Christian mission in honor of Sgt. Wimberg. These coats were collected the prior two weeks by many of our pax. Although, we did not get a final count, we ended up with 80-100 coats in my estimation. Thanks to Bigbird (Greg Hillner) for organizing a coat drive at his place of employment and donating the most coats. Thanks to all the pax who stepped up and donated. These coats were delivered to the mission after the ruck by myself, McCoy (FNG), Meter Maid, and Chestnut. Thanks to these gentlemen for helping me unload and bag the many coats collected.
We also collected almost $400 in donations, graciously given to the Travis Manion Foundation by the F3 Louisville pax in honor of Sgt. Wimberg, This money will go to a great organization with a great cause helping veterans and families of fallen heroes.
We began our Ruck at 0800 at the Big Four Bridge (1101 River Rd, Louisville KY). We said a few words, handed out the Operation Legacy T-shirts and off we went. Our black ops F3 shovel US flag lead the way. Most of the pax carried ruck sacks bearing 30 lbs of weight or more. Our route took us to Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, almost a 6 mile haul with a 400 ft elevation gain. We had 3 pax who were ruck march rookies and carried themselves well throughout the two hour hike.
Tired and weary but not broken, we arrived at Zachary Taylor National cemetery almost exactly at 1000, just in time to meet Mrs. Wimberg. We planted the flag next to the cemetery office, which use to be the home of the cemetery manager. This house is where my wife, Sara, grew up, as her dad Gary Peak, now retired, was the cemetery manager for many years and likely oversaw the burial of Sgt. Wimberg.
We next gathered around the grave site. It was a solemn moment. There was a quiet calm about the whole place, peaceful and serene. Kyle Brown (Skid) shared with us David’s bio, growing up in Louisville, graduating from Trinity High School and joining the U.S. Marine Corps. David received and an honorable discharge and continued to serve as a firefighter until he was called back to active duty from the marine reserves.
Sgt. Wimberg lost his life on May 25th, 2005 in Hadithah Iraq. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.
According to the citation signed by Navy Secretary Donald Winter, Sgt. Wimberg left his covered position, “maneuvered through intense small-arms fire and scaled a wall” to reach the courtyard where the attackers were, according to the citation.
“Although twice driven back by high volumes of enemy fire, on his third attempt, he opened the gate and allowed his squad to enter the courtyard. After two failed attempts to breach the front door of the house where the gunmen had holed up, “Sgt. Wimberg kicked in the door.”
Wimberg was then face-to-face with four armed insurgents, and he “engaged the enemy at close quarters, firing his M16A4 rifle until he was shot and fell to the ground unconscious,” the citation states.
His actions “created the momentum needed to break the ambush. Many Marines’ lives were saved as a result of Sgt. Wimberg’s decisive and selfless actions,” it states.
Gunnery Sgt. Larry Bowman, who served with Wimberg in Iraq, described him as “an exceptional Marine and a great leader. We had great respect for him.”
Kyle finished by reading some inspirational words spoken by Sgt. Wimberg’s brother Michael Wimberg, it was a powerful moment shared by all including Mrs Tricia Wimberg, who we were honored to have with us at the gravesite.
I followed this up with some words in honor of all veteran’s, taken from the VA.gov website. We had one veteran in our group today, Joe McConda (U.S. Army).
“When Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” almost 200 years ago, he called America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Those words are as true today as they were then.
Throughout this Nation’s history, America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coastguardsmen have bravely answered the call to defend our freedom, to aid our friends and allies, and to turn back aggressors.
We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the more than 650,000 American servicemembers who died in battle or the 1.4 million who were wounded. We can, however, recognize and thank the 25 million veterans still living today.
These words are inscribed on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
“Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
Those words apply equally to many of our World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and Gulf War veterans as well. They apply to today’s active duty servicemembers — tomorrow’s veterans — who are helping to maintain peace throughout the world.
Today, it is our privilege to say “thank you” to all of America’s veterans, to let them know that we appreciate them for their service and honor them for their sacrifices.
The price of freedom is high. We cannot afford to forget those willing to pay it.
Today, we celebrate America’s veterans for keeping this Nation “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
We then enjoyed hot chocolate provided so graciously by Mrs. Wimberg. She shared with us some stories about David along with a picture. She mentioned a scholarship at Trinity High School, in his honor, that is not necessarily given to the student with the best grades but to “just a good kid”.
We then said goodbye to Mrs. Wimberg and walked back over to the flag for the circle of trust. We named our FNG McCoy due to his West Virginia heritage. During intentions I encouraged everyone to thank a veteran today.
As we departed, I looked out across the sea of white tombstones and it remined me of the great cost of our freedom and the sacrifices it takes to maintain. I hope in some way that this was an inspiring if not life changing event for our participating pax today. It certainly was for me.