The walk was to remember and honor the heroes of Extortion 17.
There was about a mile left to walk when Scott Bill turned to the man with the German Shepherd at his side and asked if they would escort him the rest of the way to his son.
Aaron Tucker and his dog, Falco, had already walked about 30 miles nonstop. However, it was this last leg of their journey that brought them face to face with why they were there.
The two of them began the walk with Bill across a stretch of green grass and past the white gravestones that are found within the boundaries of Arlington National Cemetery. The path led them to a headstone marked with the name Brian Bill. This grave was where Bill's son was buried and part of the reason they, along with many others had been walking throughout the night.
Tucker, a Port Orange resident and owner of Florida K9 Unleashed, had traveled to Washington D.C. with Falco to participate in 31 Miles for 31 Heroes, which commemorates the lives lost during Extortion 17 when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by enemy fire in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011. The tragedy resulted in the deaths of 30 active duty military members and one military working dog.
Chief Petty Officer Brian R. Bill, 31, a member of SEAL Team Six, was among them.
"I was really fighting the tears at that point...because here's a father that asked me to walk him the rest of the way to his son," Tucker said. "To see a father do that was just incredible and to ask me and my dog, it was everything I could to fight back the tears."
Tucker, Falco and about 300 other people had started their journey at 8 p.m on Saturday, Aug. 5 at the Lincoln Memorial and ended the walk, also called a ruck because of the ruck packs worn, on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. in morning.
Tucker said at the end of the 31-mile walk there were only about 200 people. Falco is currently the only dog in history to complete the event, according to Tucker.
Falco, who is around 6 years old, was walking for the canine, named Bart, who died. Family members of SEAL Team Six awarded Falco one of their patches to wear on his vest, an honor, Tucker is quick to point out, that is meant solely for his dog. Falco had earned it.
"He pulled me the whole way," Tucker said. "He was on a mission."
That mission took the group through major areas of the city, such as the White House, and past monuments where the participants would read the bios of those that served. For some, there was also one more challenge to the nighttime ruck—participants had the option to carry two bricks in their packs. The representation of the bricks was twofold.
"You're carrying weight in honor of the ones we've lost and weight for the family members that are forever carrying the weight of losing their loved ones," Tucker said. "The symbolism of the walk was very touching."
Tucker said his ruck pack ended up being around 50 pounds. He added that the most difficult part of the walk was around mile 24 and that most people were surprised he and Falco had made it past mile 10.
However, it was that last part of their walk that Tucker said any pain he was experiencing was suddenly gone. It was at the grave that members of Bill's family greeted the group and where Falco was able to lay down and play with a few of
the grandchildren who were there.
And now that he is back in Florida, Tucker has more plans to give back. He recently opened an online dog store where 15% goes to the Brian Bill Foundation, which "provides therapeutic programs for Special Operations Forces, active duty, veterans and their families, along with specialized programs for Gold Star families."
Tucker is also planning to do a 22-mile paddle board to raise awareness about veteran suicides due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
For the moment, Tucker and Falco are staying busy doing interviews throughout Florida and meeting up with new friends made in Washington D.C.
And Tucker's final thoughts on the 31-mile walk after completing it with Falco at his side?
"It was probably one of the best things I've ever done in my life," he said.