RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — KCAL9 has the story behind a dramatic and haunting Los Angeles Times photo that embodies the true meaning of Memorial Day.
The picture shows Iraq war veteran Sgt. Eric Hille, in full uniform, standing over the grave of a fallen colleague Sgt. Eric Holke at Riverside National Cemetery.
The paper reported Hille, 33, walked 13 miles to get to the cemetery, but it didn’t explain why.
KCAL9’s Tom Wait got the story behind the picture.
On Monday, Wait met up with Army National Guard Sgt. Hille, who showed him how he prepped Sunday for his very special mission.
Hille, a Cal Fire engineer, decided to start a new Memorial Day tradition this year by marching to a fallen soldier’s grave. He decided to start with someone he knew well, someone he would call a brother.
“I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do a road march from here in Moreno Valley.’ I picked station 91 to Riverside National Cemetery in full combat gear,” Hille said.
He loaded up 70 pounds of combat gear for his 13-mile sojourn — no walk in the park. He told Wait a lot of emotions came up during the march. It wasn’t easy, emotionally or physically, but he made it.
“When I could actually see Riverside National Cemetery is when it started to get hard. I was running out of water and started to cramp up,” he says.
Holke and Hille were guarding a supply convoy in Iraq back in 2007 when an IED went off. Holke’s Humvee was caught up in the explosion.
“I got down into the turret and try to look at Sgt. Holke. I got back up and saw my Sgt. and just shook my head,” Hille recalled.
Holke left behind a wife and unborn child. Those loved ones helped inspire Hille six years later.
“We have to do our best to continue to remember the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice for what we have the privilege of doing in this country,” Hille said.
The Sgt. says next year he won’t be alone, as a group of 20 have already signed up to march with him on Memorial Day 2014.