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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s Department of Military Science-Army ROTC will host the third annual Mountain Man Memorial March on April 17 in Gatlinburg. Preliminary events begin on April 16.

“This small event began as a way for us to honor one of our fallen, UT alumnus 1st Lt. Frank Walkup, who was killed in Iraq on June 16, 2007,” said Cadet Greg Early, the Cadet Battalion Commander of the UT Army ROTC Rocky Top Battalion.

“Lt. Walkup was serving as a platoon leader in Rashaad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position. The 2005 UT sociology graduate was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and was an Airborne, Air Assault and Ranger school graduate.

“What started as a remembrance to Lt. Walkup has doubled in size annually and evolved into a tribute which honors all our fallen American heroes, their families and our veterans.”

On April 16, the festivities begin at 7 p.m. with a ceremony honoring East Tennessee Gold Star Mothers. This event will be held at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Traffic Light 5, 88 River Road, Gatlinburg.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. is an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country. Each mother will be recognized and present a Gold Star Flag to a team marching in honor her son or daughter. The team will carry the flag and will return it to the mother at the completion of the march. This event has become the largest Gold Star Mother recognition ceremony in the southeast and is gaining national recognition. For more information, see http://www.volunteerchapterofgsm.webs.com.

On April 17, opening ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson and Buell parking lot, 530 Parkway, Gatlinburg. The 26-mile, marathon-length march/run starts at 9 a.m. There will be quarter- (6.25 mi) half- (13.1 mi) and full- (26.2 mi) length routes in three divisions — heavy (wearing military back packs), light (without military back packs) and civilian.

At 8 p.m. the weekend concludes with an award ceremony to recognize winners and supporters. This also takes place in the Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson and Buell parking lot.

“Mountain Man March participants have ranged from active-duty service members, police organizations and out-of-state ROTC units to UT athletic teams, scouts and civilians,” Early said.

To coincide with the march, the Road March for Warriors (RM4W) will hold a pancake breakfast and a motorcycle ride to show their support for the event. The group supports the activities of several veterans groups, including Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans, the American Legion, the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association and the East Tennessee Military Affairs Council. Road March volunteers also coordinate with motorcycle organizations such as the AMVET Riders, the American Legion Riders, Rolling Thunder and Blue Knights to support veterans and active troops serving from East Tennessee. For more information about RM4W and the group’s planned activities, see http://www.roadmarchforwarriors.com/Details.htm.

Mountain Man Memorial March benefits the Wounded Warrior Project by making a donation in Lt. Walkup’s name. The donation includes 20 percent of all proceeds and 100 percent of all on-site collections, as well as monies collection in some pre-event fund drives.

Sponsors include EOD-Technologies, the City of Gatlinburg, Rothschild Catering, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the Harriman chapter of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Food City, Smart Bank, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, PMSI, Road March for Warriors, Kohl’s, Harley Davidson of Gatlinburg, Strommer Caterpillar, Pilot Travel, ORNL Credit Union, United States Automobile Association (USAA) and the Gatlinburg Inn.

For more information about the third annual Mountain Man Memorial March and to register, see http://www.mountainmanmemorialmarch.com.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)