Walk to Remember
On July 23, Joe “Tiger” Patrick II, an former cavalry scout during Desert Storm, took a knee with the Soldiers of Company D., 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Regt., 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div., to unveil his biggest motivation for his trek across country – a 25 foot by 8 foot panel with photos of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that have fallen since the war on terror was declared in 2001. Included on his panel are the photos of nine Soldiers that lost their lives during brigade’s recent deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Scott Lamberson, 4th IBCT PAO)
Story by: 4IBCT PAO Scott C Lamberson
Many Americans may claim to be patriots, but for Joe "Tiger" Patrick II, he lives it. Despite being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, his patriotism has not wavered, just like the American flag and memorial panel he has carried halfway across the U.S.
Tiger, a Desert Storm veteran who has a degenerative disease of the liver, is on a mission to raise awareness about the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their nation and to remind friends and Families left behind their loved ones will never be forgotten.
He packs light, but he carries a heavy load, as he treks across America. In his ruck sack, he carries a hand-made, 25-by-eight-foot memorial panel that contains more than 6,600 photos of fallen heroes and an American flag to honor fallen Soldiers who were killed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
During a July 23 stop at Fort Riley, Tiger attended an early morning physical fitness session and shared his motivation with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Soldiers.
"Fort Riley is basically in the middle of the country. It is also a place where many of the casualties have come from," Tiger said. "It was important for me to stop here and be face-to-face with the men and women who … give so much to our country."
Nine Soldiers were lost during the brigade's recent deployment to Afghanistan, including Capt. James Nehl, former commander, Co. D, 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Regt., who lost his life during combat operations Nov. 9, 2012.
"I'm proud to spend time with these Soldiers today. This reinvigorates me to go forward for the next 1,800 miles of my journey," Tiger said.
A squad-level competition was conducted during the session. The combat-focused physical training consisted of a short run, climbing a wall and rope ladder, maneuvering over obstacles, numerous exercises and different types of buddy team carries. The session lasted about 90 minutes.
"I'm in awe. These guys didn't quit. There were a lot of stations which were very grueling. I'm glad … I'm just a guy walking another 1,800 miles because I don't know if I could wake up every morning and exercise to this extent," he said.
Following the workout, Tiger spent some time speaking with the Soldiers. He unveiled the banner with the pictures of all those lost in battle. The banner is so large that numerous members of the company were needed to help unfurl it.
"To have an individual like himself walk so far and then make a stop to join us, and do some awesome physical training with us is a great honor," said Staff Sgt. Joshua MacNary, platoon sergeant, Co. D, 2nd Bn., 16th Inf. Regt. "Knowing that in his bag, he has a picture of our former commander, as well as all the other fallen … it is such an honor for an individual to carry them this far and continue to the East Coast.
"I hope as he moves forward, he thinks about us and the Families as they mourn the loss of their loved ones. I hope these thoughts will motivate him to just keep going when times get hard and to think what he is carrying in his bag."
Every morning before he begins his walk, Tiger said he reads a biography or an obituary of one of the fallen. As he walks, he reflects on the individual and draws motivation from the fact he is carrying more than 6,600 photos of heroes across the country on his back.
Tiger's journey started April 27, 2012, in Coronado Beach, Calif. Along the way, Tiger said he stays at fire houses, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and American Legions, and stops at various military installations. His journey will conclude in Washington, where he will visit the Arlington National Cemetery and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"When I'm having a hard day, I think about the individuals on my back. I can't let them down. If the mission is strong, and you know what you're doing is right, you find the inner strength to just go," Tiger said.