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Operation Battle Born: Never Forget

Student veteran holding the American flag during the 2019 Ruck to Remember.
Rebecca A. Eckland

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of 9-11, an event that changed the course of American history. And yet, according to TMCC Veterans Program Coordinator Felipe Gutierrez, it’s a day that many of today’s college students don’t remember. “We’re starting to get to the point where a lot of people really don’t remember September 11, especially younger generations.  They weren’t born yet, or they were very young. And yet, a lot of veterans volunteered their service because of the 9-11 attacks,” Gutierrez said. “So, the anniversary of the event carries a lot of different meanings to different people.” 

The terrorist attacks of 9-11 had a long list of casualties that include 3,000 people that lost their lives as a result of 10 militants who hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. Of those who lost their lives were over 400 first responders who attempted to help evacuate the World Trade Center buildings and to save those trapped on the higher floors. 

Rucking... To Remember

Operation Battle Born: Never Forget is a moving memorial of all those lives lost twenty years ago, as well as homage to those who chose to devote their lives to serve our country. The event, called a “Ruck March” is a military exercise in which a soldier marches relatively quickly while carrying a loaded pack. Operation Battle Born mimics the ruck in all respects, but one: participants carry the memory of those who lost their lives in the metaphor of the weight in their packs.  “It’s an event that we want to open to our TMCC community, as well as the community beyond that,” said Gutierrez. 

TMCC is the main sponsor for the event, and Gutierrez said his goal is to get as many people from our campus community involved as possible.  “I don’t want this to be just for the veteran community,” he said. “I want this to be for everybody. It really helps the students and veterans to connect with the community... Since our 2020 Operation Battle Born event was canceled, we decided to schedule smaller rucks when we can.”

While the original Operation Battle Born Ruck March traversed the state of Nevada North to South, the Never Forget Ruck March will cover 35 miles on Saturday, Sept. 11 starting at 9 a.m.  This year’s route begins at the Capitol Mall in Carson City and continues through Washoe Valley to the Summit Sierra Mall, then down Veteran’s Parkway to finish at the Sparks Marina. 

However, Gutierrez said that the most important thing isn’t the miles you cover; instead, it’s all about community. To enable participation from all community members, including those with disabilities, the event will have a rendezvous point at the Olive Garden parking lot in Sparks, a mere half-mile from the finish. 

“Anyone can wait for us and join us there,” he said, explaining that the Never Forget Ruck will feature a brief yet solemn closing ceremony, which will close by retiring an American flag. 

As of Aug. 23, the event boasted 87 registered participants that pledged to walk at least one of the 11-mile legs of the event.  There are still spaces available and registration can be completed online. There is no cost to register.

An Event for the Community

The event has also garnered community support from the City of Sparks, local veterans groups, first responders, veteran students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as well as several others. 

“It is important that we remember the sacrifices of those who responded to 9-11: firefighters and policemen,” Gutierrez said, explaining that organizations of local responders will have some sort of representation at the event and will complete the last half-mile of the Ruck.

“We’re here for the camaraderie, to remember the fallen. We’ll have 7,000 dog tags of fallen service members, including 57 from Nevada—which weigh about 80 pounds—to carry. We are encouraging some participants to carry a few of those dog tags with them, to feel the weight of it.” Participants will earn swag that includes an event t-shirt.

“This is really an amazing event because it really brings our community together,” said Gutierrez. “The things we’ve been able to see on these long walks are really incredible. The stories that people share, sometimes these are things people haven’t talked about in years, but for some reason on these walks, they feel that they can open up even if they are complete and total strangers.”

For more information about Operation Battle Born: Never Forget visit the event website. An information session will be held on Sept. 10.