KIA Memorial Road March
By Tech. Sgt. Andrew Caya, 914th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 26, 2015
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Members of the 914th Airlift Wing participated in the K.I.A. Memorial Road March at a local park, August 22, 2015.
Wing members marched a 10K, approximately six miles, up and down hills at Chestnut Ridge State Park, Orchard Park, N.Y. carrying canned goods to be donated to local veteran organizations; all this in memory of Western New York veterans killed during the Global War on Terror.
The K.I.A. Memorial Road March started when a local soldier, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Jason Jaskula, wanted to find a way to honor the memory of his Battle Buddy, U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. and Buffalo Fire Fighter Christopher Dill. Dill was killed in action while deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom on April 4, 2005.
U.S. Army Reserve Capt. and 914th Airlift Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Nikki Slaughter said that she participated in this march not only because she knows Jaskula, but she wanted to be a part of something that helps Western New York veterans.
"This road march is a way to help our local veterans who struggle to find resources in this community," said Slaughter. "The canned goods will help many homeless Vets in the area, and the funds raised will help the local chapter of the Gold Star Mothers as well as the Buffalo Veterans Court."
In addition to assisting veterans, this road march had an aspect present in the career of every service member - physical fitness.
Another 914th Airlift Wing member, Drug Demand Reduction Specialist Senior Master Sgt. Steve Brown said, "I participated in this event because I was asked to. However, with that said, I am glad I did. I like to challenge myself, and this event did that, but while having fun."
Although the event was designed with the military in mind, the march was open to everyone, current and retired military, first responders and civilians. Since the first ruck march in 2012, Jaskula has grown the event for other people to attend.
According to the KIA Memorial Road March website, the primary goal of the march is to honor the New York State service members K.I.A. in Iraq and Afghanistan, during OEF/OIF/OND. The entire 10K route is lined with signs, each with the name of one of those service members.
The secondary goal of the march is to help local veterans in need. Funds raised at the march has helped support the Buffalo Veterans Court and the local chapter of the Gold Star Mothers. The canned goods and non-perishable food, used as weight by marchers, have been donated to the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 77 and Miligan's Pantry at Buffalo State College.