GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (12/22/2017) (readMedia)-- New York Army National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from the Queensbury Readiness Center and across the Capital District join dozens of military family members and hundreds of friends for the annual Christmas Eve-morning four mile road march to show support for military men and women serving in Afghanistan, Kuwait and locations around the world.
This year's road march commemorates the World War I centennial of service, marking the arrival of New York Soldiers in France in 1917 for their service in WWI with the 42nd Infantry Division and the American Expeditionary Forces.
WHO: New York Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Queensbury Readiness Center, and other units in the greater capital region, their family members, veterans and friends. More than 700 marchers are expected.
WHAT: A four mile road march to honor fellow Soldiers who are away from family and friends, serving their country, and often in harm's way, on Christmas.
WHEN: 9 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, 2017.
WHERE: The Cool Insuring Arena, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Glens Falls, N.Y. The march will start and finish at the arena.
For additional information about the course or to register, contact retired Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Coon at 518-542-4726.
Imagery of Soldiers, many in uniform, along with family members, Patriot Guard Riders and veterans marching from the Glens Falls Civic Center and along the shoulder of the road and back to downtown Glens Falls. There will be opportunities for interviews with participants at the beginning about the meaning of the march, which has become an annual event.
A special contingent of four New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 42nd Infantry Division Headquarters, based in Troy, N.Y., will participate in replica WWI uniforms, commemorating the service of New York's Doughboys of WWI and remembering their arrival in France for combat service.
The 42nd Division was a unique National Guard combat division formed for service in WWI from units across the nation, encompassing 26 states and the District of Columbia. The unit received the nickname Rainbow Division because it "stretched across the country like a rainbow," according the division's first chief of staff, then-Colonel Douglas MacArthur.
The Christmas Eve Road March was first conducted in 2004 when Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's Company C, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, which was then based at the now-closed Glens Falls Armory, were away from home in Iraq over Christmas. Other Soldiers assigned to the armory, from the 466th Area Support Medical Company, got together to conduct a road march, the military term for a walking movement, in their honor.
Since then the march has become a tradition to recognize the sacrifices being made by all American service men and women who are on-duty away from their families during the Christmas season.
"The road march was started in 2004 when our local infantry Soldiers with Company C, 2-108th Infantry were deployed to Iraq, and we didn't want them to think we were just sitting at home," said organizer and retired New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Art Coon. "We wanted to make damn sure they knew we remembered them!"
The road march also recognizes participants with awards for key contributors.
"We will have the same awards: largest care package donation, furthest traveler, heaviest backpack for male and female, largest group and largest family," Coon said.
Supporting areas units of the New York National Guard that are regularly present include the 466th Area Medical Support Company and 1427th Transportation Company, both stationed at the Queensbury Readiness Center, along with Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing from Scotia, N.Y.
The march is sponsored, in part, by the Capital District of New York Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
The march will occur in downtown Glens Falls, where the Glens Falls Police Department is coordinating the road march route with the New York National Guard's Family Readiness Group.
The WWI Commemoration of the 42nd Infantry Division "Valley Forge Hike"
The 2017 Christmas Eve road march will also remember a much more challenging movement by New York National Guard troops 100 years ago.
When National Guard Soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division arrived in France they took part in a long road march to its assembly and training areas in France in December. It was known in the Rainbow history as the "Valley Forge Hike."
The movement covered about 100 kilometers in 18 days, from Vaucouleurs to Rolampont, where the unit would train for combat. The troops left on December 12, marched for four days, rested for ten and then started out the day after Christmas on the next four day march to Rolampont. They had barely started before a blizzard sprang up.
The thermometer went below zero. Cases of mumps and pneumonia developed, and the supply of ambulances was too small to carry the men to hospitals as rapidly as they became ill.
There was not much automobile transportation in those first days, either; only the division commander and brigade commanders had cars. The colonels of the regiments rode mules, but often one of them dismounted and let an exhausted man ride while he walked.
Historical accounts of the march note the hardships and the difficulties of the march and credit the movement for hardening the new arrivals for what would come later on the battlefield.