CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (KGTV) - The Recon Challenge at Camp Pendleton takes Marines through a grueling 30-mile course, comprised of obstacles including a 1,000-yard open-ocean swim, mountainous terrain, and underwater knot-tying exercises.
The challenge honors the fallen Marines of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve. Participants run in the name of a fallen Marine, paying tribute by hanging dog tags on the iconic battlefield cross at the finish line.
"It's probably a collection of some of the toughest people on the planet, I mean it's, imagine a marathon but you're carrying 50 pounds plus you're swimming in the ocean, the pools, and doing these other events," said Adam Sorensen, who was medically retired from the Marine Corps two years ago.
Sorenson's group was made up of Marines from 3rd platoon, commonly known as "LOWLIFE," Force Reconnaissance Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
In addition to carrying the name of a fallen comrade, they also carried their comrade Jonathon Blank, who was medically retired after both of his legs were severed after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.
"They are the guys you can count on the rest of your life, I mean it when I say they're my brothers," said Blank, who used prosthetics to cross the finish line.
The event is also a chance for Gold Star Families to reunite with those their loved ones served with.
One group of Marines completed the course in honor of Staff Sgt. Caleb Medley, who was killed during a training accident in 2013.
"It's like a family reunion, it's hard in a way, but it's really a joyful time because you're reconnecting with those people who served with Caleb, who had a bond with Caleb," said Diane Homm, Medley's mother.
"When they say they're going to be there for you for the rest of your life they mean it, because they are, they're there for you."