As they hauled 35 pounds each of combat gear across 48 miles of road for two days and nearly 20 hours, Master Sgt. Sean Hannes from the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and 73 other Georgia Guard members garnered countless honks, shouts of appreciation and “thank yous” from grateful onlookers. Encouraged, the group finished its marathon Veterans Day march from Canton to Atlanta on Sunday.
Hannes said the only thing greater than the distance he and his peers walked was the support from passersby. He said some people were so inspired by the sight of the soldiers that they joined the group for short stretches of the journey to honor the nation’s veterans.
Hannes said the response from the public was both incredible and gratifying.
“About 1 percent of our nation is in the armed forces, and we’re protecting the freedom of the other 99 percent, so I’m really glad to see so much support,” Hannes said. “It’s overwhelming. I’m glad to have experienced it. It was a very good experience.”
Even though Hannes and the group received all the outside support they needed, the march proved to be tougher than some marchers anticipated. Only 43 of the original 73 soldiers completed the entire march. Hannes, who completed all 48 miles, said while some marchers experienced cramping, the majority who didn’t finish did so because of an inability to recover after the first day.
The soldiers marched 32 miles Saturday and 16 Sunday. When they reached the end of the route at Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the soldiers were greeted by a group of about 200 people who congratulated them.
Hannes said the march was great, but that next time he’ll train a little more. Soldiers began training for this event in August.
Not one to rest for a minute, Hannes and a few other soldiers headed up to the North Georgia mountains Monday, hoping to keep their muscles warm enough to march in Atlanta’s Veterans Day parade Tuesday.
Hannes returned to his family in Hinesville after the parade.