Soldiers and leaders of 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), honored generations of fallen heroes, May 21-22, during a test of endurance and grit to begin the Memorial Day weekend.
The 24-hour Run for the Fallen began 8 a.m., May 21, with an opening ceremony at the Bastogne Memorial on Fort Campbell’s Memorial Row and came to an end with an 8 a.m. ceremony at the brigade’s headquarters, the following day.
Between the two ceremonies, No Slack Soldiers continuously ran with the nation’s colors and the unit’s battle flag to honor 2-327th Inf. Regt. Soldiers who died in service to our Nation since the battalion’s first deployment during World War I.
“We honor those Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice by continuing to move our flag forward,” said Command Sgt. Patrick Doherty, senior enlisted adviser of 2-327th Inf. Regt. “Since our inception in 1917, No Slack has gone on to fight and win in every major conflict America has been in. From World War I to most recently, Operation Inherent Resolve, No Slack has been repeatedly been called on to protect America’s interests across the world. In doing so, we’ve unfortunately lost members of our No Slack Family.”
Doherty said the battalion has lost more than 800 Soldiers in combat since 1917.
“Our costliest conflict was Vietnam,” he said. “More than 300 No Slack Soldiers were lost, including 1st Sgt. Raymond E. Benson, who is the creator of our current motto, No Slack. We lost 1st Sgt. Benson on April 23, 1967. Gen. George Patton once said: ‘It’s foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died, rather, we should thank God such men have lived’.”
Soldiers from each company within the battalion volunteered to complete an entire loop of the route for a specific time block during 24-hour period. Soldiers ran from the Bastogne Memorial up Kentucky Avenue and back down to complete the 7.9-mile route.
“We normally spend this week celebrating 101st Airborne Division history and our battalion history,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Da Silva, 2-327th Inf. Regt. battalion commander. “No Slack is a very special battalion with a very active alumni network, I felt a bit of a duty and responsibility to find a way to honor this history and legacy in some way, given the constraints due to COVID-19. No Slack has always been a hard-nosed fighting organization, very physically fit, so I felt something like a 24-hour run would be a challenge and would reflect back on the challenges our ancestors faced during battle.”
Da Silva said events like the Run for the Fallen keep present day No Slack Soldiers connected with their battalion ancestors, adding the No Slack battalion has already lived through a pandemic, the Spanish Flu, and went on to successfully fight in World War II.
“They realize the connective tissue between them and something that happened a hundred years ago,” he said. “Part of this run was to help break the mentality of ‘this has never happened before,’ because it has, and to point out how, this battalion was birthed in the same environment and went on to help win World War I. I think connecting Soldiers to this history, every time they wear or see the No Slack logo, they know are part of something bigger and greater than themselves.”
The Soldiers who participated in the run reflected on the No Slack Soldiers who came before them.
“It’s part of the Army values, which is duty and self-sacrifice,” said Spc. Arthur Patterson. “Part of our duty is to continue to represent and remember our fallen Soldiers and to continue to live up their legacy. This run is a big task, but it really is a reflection of our history. Running in a relay, this represents how each generation of Soldiers who takes over duty is really a continuation of our history, a passing on of the torch.”
The run also served as a reminder for those driving by throughout the 24-hours to stop and reflect on the true purpose of Memorial Day.
“I ran from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., on the first day,” said 1st. Lt. Meghan Mackinnon, executive officer of H Co. 2-327th Inf. Regt. “I was also out there cheering on the Soldiers and following them during the run from 12:30 a.m., to 2 a.m. The run really was less about us personally, it was more of a reminder for people driving by about what this weekend is really about. I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in this event.”
Many of the No Slack Soldiers who participated in the run walked away with a greater sense of respect for the Soldiers who came before them.
“I think as a whole, we are doing as much as we can even during the social distancing measures that are in place,” said 1st Lt. John McGinnis, platoon leader in D Co. 2-327th Inf. Regt. “This is my first time really doing anything through the Army for Memorial Day. It provides a unique perspective change, it gives you insight before you relax. It gives you a greater respect and makes you think about those who came before you, and what their sacrifice really means.”