CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A group of Marines and Navy Corpsmen on a 770-mile trek as part of the Marine Raider Memorial March made a stop in West Ashley Thursday night.
The effort honors the 11-member UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew who died during a training mission after crashing in the Santa Rosa Sound in Florida last March. Seven of them were Marines.
Erika Hipple was the fiance of one of the fallen Marines, Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol.
"So many people only know these boys by the accident and we don't want the accident to define who they are," Hipple says.
A year later after the death that claimed his life, the first Marine Raider Memorial March is keeping their memory alive.
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Others have joined along the 12-day, 770-mile journey, which extends from the crash site in Navarre, Florida, through Georgia and South Carolina to Stone Bay on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
"When a family loses one of their sons, or daughters from our community, we become their family," one of the Marines said.
The men are divided into seven two-man teams, with each team averaging 11 miles before the next team takes over.
Each person rucking it one step at a time with 45 pounds of gear. Family members and other volunteers have also joined the walk.
"To hear stories of my finance, and things that I had never heard about before from people that knew him and I share stories with them to things that pop in my head, it's very healing," Hipple says.
They carry the Marine Raider Flag and a paddle recovered from the wreckage of the helicopter crash.
"Some of the family members come out and see us along the way and it means so much to them," Marine Corpsman Daniel Secor says.
Residents in each state not only cheer them on but some also donate food or drinks for the cause.
A Marine said we want the children of the fallen to grow up to know their fathers were important men. They also hope to raise money to take care of those families.
The helicopter, which flew out of the Florida military base, was taking part in routine training exercises when it was reported missing at around 8:30 p.m. on March 11, 2015, according to a military spokesman. There was dense fog in the area at the time of the crash. A second chopper also participating in the training exercise returned safely.
This route was chosen to symbolize bringing the seven Marines back home on the voyage they were unable to finish.
Proceeds from the March will benefit the Brothers In Arms Foundation, which has been involved with supporting the families of the seven Marines since the tragedy.