By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
On Christmas Eve day, Friday, Dec. 24, at 0900 hours — that’s 9 a.m., civilians — SFC Arthur Coon’s 18th annual Christmas Eve Road March steps off in person, again, from the Cool Insuring Arena in downtown Glens Falls.
Arrive before 9 for the ceremony, when the volunteers will also collect care package donations for deployed soldiers.
The four-mile march was founded by Retired Sgt. Coon to honor and assist American soldiers serving away from home at Christmastime. Last year’s march went virtual, due to Covid.
This year, Julia Coon, SFC Coon’s wife and co-organizer, is taking on more of the responsibilities, as her husband lives with the limitations of a serious stroke in April 2020 that especially impacted his eyesight.
“Arthur is a walking miracle so we have no complaints,” Julie told The Chronicle in advance of this year’s march. “Against all odds he survived.”
The ever-undaunted Sgt. Coon also reports on Facebook walking several miles a day, often including stairs or hill work.
Typically, 2,000 people participate in the Road March. In year one, there were “about 10 of us,” Sgt. Coon previously told The Chronicle. When the march began in 2004, local National Guard solders were still deployed in Iraq.
It is free and “open to absolutely everyone,” Sgt. Coon wrote: “Soldiers, veterans, civilians, kids, dogs, and even strollers!”
Advance registration is not needed.
Military members are invited to dress in uniform. All participants are invited to wear backpacks carrying personal supplies to donate to deployed soldiers.
Prizes will be awarded for the largest military group marching, largest civilian group, heaviest male backpack and heaviest female backpack, as well as to attendees who’ve come from farthest away.
Spectators are welcome along the route. The march proceeds up Glen Street, east on Garrison Road, and then down Bay Street back to the arena.
Masks and social distancing are required inside the arena. Participants may also simply join for the outdoors portion of the march.
Those who cannot walk may ride the Warren County veterans bus, remain at the arena, or choose a place along the route to cheer on those who are walking — “but you can’t do it from home,” Sgt. Coon typically urges.
The march was virtual in 2020. Julie Coon said, “Last year we challenged everyone to hold their own Road March safely and post them to the Road March page. We didn’t get many posts but we know a lot of people just did it quietly.
“We felt it was just as wonderful because people were out thinking about military people not home for the holidays.”
More tips, from prior years:
• “A Santa hat is optional, but you should stick your head out the door that morning and dress appropriately. Think proper footwear, gloves, etc.”
• ‘We walk on the sidewalks most of the way,’ avoiding Christmas traffic.
• The road march is free, “but we do sell T shirts, and the money goes to postage, to send care packages!” They have another new design from Oneon1design.
• Bring an American flag to carry or “stick it in your backpack” if you wear one.
• Info: Email to email@example.com, call 378-9518, or — best — find up-to-date details on Facebook. Search for SFC Coon’s Christmas Eve Road March.
Sgt. Coon wrote previously, “Road marches aren’t supposed to be easy. They’re hard and unpleasant and you suffer just a little…So too do the soldiers suffer who are deployed, be it family separation, hard duty in terrible weather, long hours, danger, etc.”
Sgt. Coon ends, as always: “HOOAH!”
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