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NIJMEGEN, Netherlands — Despite the dark, ominous clouds, there were no complaints about the weather from the 152 U.S. troops participating in the third day of the International Four Day Marches in Nijmegen.

In fact, they were loving it. When marching 25 miles daily, the gloomy weather is a godsend.

According to Capt. John Beck, 26, who is serving as the team leader for the U.S. marchers, “It’s not too cool, it’s not too hot, it’s just right, with some drizzle.”

But there was one thing the weather couldn’t ease, and that was the effect walking — 75 miles over the past three days — had on the marchers’ feet.

By the beginning of Day Three, the U.S. contingent had lost 26 marchers. Still, Sgt. Jesse Eaton, 26, of the 7th Signal Brigade out in Mannheim, Germany, was pleased with the way the Americans were doing as they faced the Seven Hills Day, considered to be the toughest day of all.

The Portland, Maine, native said, “Our team is doing pretty good. Everyone that’s here today will make it through to the end.”

One of the most important things that kept Eaton and others going was the thousands of Dutch onlookers cheering them on as they passed along the route.

He jokingly called them “one hundred thousand sadists cheering on 50,000 masochists.”

Staff Sgt. David Norgard, who is assigned to AFNORTH in the Netherlands, agreed that the show of support motivated him and his team to carry on. His teammate, Staff Sgt Eric Allen, 29, also from AFNORTH, backed him up.

“Even with all the pain, there’s no way I would miss this,” he said.

About 47,000 military members and civilians are participating in the four days of walking. Each day there are four routes: one of 50 kilometers, two of 40 kilometers and one of 30 kilometers. The approximately 5,000 military members from 18 countries — each carrying a loaded rucksack — walk one of the 40-kilometer routes beginning each day from Camp Heumensoord.

The four-day march began in 1909, at the suggestion of a Dutch military officer, with about 300 soldiers and 10 civilians walking 100 miles between bases. The event grew each year and in 1928 the walkers were joined by delegations from Germany, France, Norway and the United Kingdom.

According to march officials, this year there are 3,699 military members marching in teams and 1,095 military members walking as individuals.


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