They left the Toms River Armory early in the morning and headed out under ominous skies, into sweltering heat and humidity.
They trudged through Huddy Park, then down onto Route 9 South, into Beachwood, Pine Beach, Bayville and Ocean Gate. It was tough going in camouflage and heavy combat boots.
But that did not deter Sgt. First Class Theodore Berry - a full-time National Guard recruiter - and his fellow marchers on Saturday.
"When we do these walks, it's not a recruiting event, it's a pride event," Berry said.
The group walked to honor current past and future veterans and to raise awareness of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
They eventually made their way to the Chelsea Civic Association beach on Shorewood Drive in Bayville, where local Realtor Robin Bahr and other supporters were waiting with a picnic lunch and dessert.
She met first Berry and his wife when she helped them buy their Bayville home.
"I was just so honored to know him and so proud of his walk," Bahr said. "I thought, let's celebrate."
Berry came up with the idea for the walk two years ago.
"I walked by myself," he said, as he munched on a hot dog. Last year he had about 30 marchers for company.
"We are estimating about 50 this year," he said. "It's for those who died on 9-11 and those that are serving now and in the past."
Tom and Corrine Morris of Brick Township attended the picnic. The couple has some anxious months ahead of them. Their son Tommy, 22, was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan on July 8.
"He just left," his mother said. "He'll be back by the end of June."
"We hope," his father said.
Members of the Blue Star Mothers of the Jersey Shore, Chapter#4 and the American Recreational Military Services (A.R.M.S.) were also there to support the walkers.
A.R.M.S member Lorraine Hammersten of Toms River has been involved with the group for five years.
"I started wrapping Christmas presents for the troops and I'm hooked," she said. "My husband was retired Army."
Other walkers who joined Berry on the march included National Guard Sgt. Charmaine Aquino, 22, whose unit is based in Somerset; Jack Cuccurullo, 17, Brick, who has wanted to join the Guard for years; Carlos Bergen, 22, who hopes to be in the Guard by January and William Lewis of Beachood.
Lewis, 45, a specialist with the Army Reserve, is headed to Kuwait next week. He's not sure if he will eventually end up in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"I've already done 15 months in Iraq," he said. "If we go into Afghanistan, I think that's a more dangerous place now."
Berry said one of the reasons he organized the walk was to remind people that the military is "out there."
"It's for national pride," he said. "We may not always agree with the government, but we should always show support for our troops."