"It's a struggle for most the first couple times no matter how well condition someone is in."
Fallen Soldiers March
Credit: Fallen Soldiers March

On Veterans Day, Jim Retzke will walk the arduous 32 miles from Nashville to Lebanon, Tennessee, to bring a life-changing gift to a local Marine Corps veteran.

"It's a struggle for most the first couple times no matter how well condition someone is in," Retzke told The Tennessean. Last year 24 people marched the entire 32 miles, while many more joined in for portions of it.

Retzke will lead this year's Fallen Soldiers March along Highway 70 from Legislative Plaza in Nashville to the Wilson County Veterans Plaza and Museum. There, he and his fellow walkers will present a deserving vet with his very own service dog.

This year 35-year-old Daniel Nance will receive a sweet-faced canine named Click. Nance, who lives in the Watertown area, spent three years in Iraq as an aircraft rescue firefighter and on an explosive ordinance disposal team for the Marines.

"Anyone who has spent several years in that environment sees things," Nance said. "You've got events that are full-blown adrenaline pumping and then things that happen that make you always on edge. You can just be talking to someone and rockets and mortars start falling around you."

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Retzke began marching in 2012 to raise money for Fallen Soldiers March, a nonprofit that provides wounded veterans with costly service dogs. Retzke asks those who participate in the march to raise a minimum of $100 for Fallen Soldiers March. And as he told The Tennessean, properly training a service dog costs around $30,000. According to Retzke, multiple factors are considered in awarding service dogs, including post-traumatic stress, a range of physical and emotional injuries, as well as neurological challenges. The organization also pairs certified Biblical counselors and chaplains with veterans and family members, as part of their support program.

For information on Fallen Soldiers March and how to donate, visit FallenSoldiersMarch.com or the Fallen Soldiers March Facebook page.