By Daniel Pierce | Special to the Mountaineer
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Carrying 35 pounds and their rifles, Soldiers participated in the semiannual 25-mile commemoration march known as the Manchu Mile, which emphasizes brotherhood, unity, and their ability to work together, from July 18, 2019, to the morning of July 19, 2019. The 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and 1st Space Brigade Soldiers began and ended their march at the regiment’s motor pool.
“Those Soldiers were definitely thinking that they couldn’t make it. They just put their heart into it and had to continue the mission, so I have respect for those guys,” said Sgt. Logan Lovelace, an infantryman with 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT.
Undertaken semiannually, the Manchu Mile honors the regiment’s storied involvement in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
The “Boxers,” according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, were fanatics who wished to eradicate foreign influence from China. In the year 1900, the uprising overtook parts of China, with the intent of eradicating the spread of Western and Japanese influence. Soldiers of 9th Inf. Reg. were dispatched to help subdue the rebellion. Subsequently, they marched 85 miles from Taku Bar to the city walls of Tientsin, China.
During their battle at Tientsin, the regiment successfully rescued besieged foreign diplomats and missionaries and earned the title of “Manchus” — reserved for the finest Chinese warriors.
For the past 119 years, service members have continued to honor the Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment who marched to the Battle of Tientsin.
“They did something incredible by marching 85 miles straight into combat,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Altamirano, platoon leader with 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT.
Col. Emerson H. Liscum, commander of the original march and the attack on the walls of Tientsin, was shot by a Chinese sniper. Mortally wounded, Liscum shouted out his final words “keep up the fire,” which became the official motto of the 9th Inf. Reg.
This military endurance test offers no reward for finishing first, as the objective is for every Soldier to finish with the support they need from their brothers and sisters beside them.
“I think it’s good for building camaraderie within the battalion, because everybody is doing it together and there is a lot of support at the end when you finish,” said Altamirano.
Marching 25 miles through the night is no easy task, especially for those who bear the responsibility of carrying their representative guidon.
“It was a lot of fun, just long, but I had a good time,” said Pfc. Austin Wisyanski, a scout with 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT, who participated as the guidon bearer for his platoon.
Soldiers who completed the march received a belt buckle with “Keep Up the Fire” inscribed, which can be worn with standard uniforms.
For many Soldiers it was their first time attempting the march.
“I’m going to walk, and walk, and keep walking until it works,” said Pvt. Nicholas Lauerbach, who attempted the walk for the first time.
With the constant sound of boots hitting the ground, dust covering their faces and darkness as their guide, the Soldiers marched in part to honor the Soldiers of the original 9th Inf. Reg. who fought the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
“This is my last hurrah, and I want to spend it with the Soldiers before I start retirement,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dennis Lindsey, 1st Space Brigade, who recently received his retirement orders.
The Manchu Mile is not only an important tribute to the unit’s history, but also an important training tool as well. A tool that enhances confidence while reminding each participant of the mental and physical fortitude required.
“I’m relieved. I’m just ready to drop this pack, and drop my gear,” said Lindsey. “The last five miles seemed like 50 miles.”