International March of Diekirch: What Is It?
The International March of Diekirch originally organized by the Luxembourg Army, was first held in 1968. The number of participants in the International March of Diekirch on its inaugural debut was only 267. Around 8,000 people now take part in the International March of Diekirch every year in order to commemorate the liberation of Luxembourg twice from foreign oppression and show gratitude toward U.S. soldiers who liberated Luxembourg in 1918 and in 1944.
The Medaille de Marche Internationale de Diekirch (MID), is a permanent and wearable foreign award from the Armed Forces of Luxembourg, also known as the Diekirch Medal, which commemorates a 14th Century Luxembourg king, known as John of Luxembourg (1296-1346), King of Bohemia (1310-1346), is awarded to those who complete the International March of Diekirch.
According to U.S. Army officials, the country and army of Luxembourg graciously opened up the International March of Diekirch to all formations across the world and it gives Luxembourg’s military allies the opportunity to participate in the longstanding event.
The Luxembourg Embassy in Washington, D.C. states on their website the walk itself consists of a 12, 20 or 40 kilometer hike. The march is open to military personnel and civilians alike, including children, and since its inception more than 250,000 individuals have participated.
In recent years, as recent as 2022, some U.S. military units participate in the event virtually by registering and then conducting their march at their home stations as part of a regular unit training event. National Guard and reserve component units were eligible and have performed the march by taking the challenge and completing the 12.4-mile (20 km), or the 24.8-mile (40 km) distance. There is also a 7.45-mile route (12 km).
However, according to officials at the International March of Diekirch, those virtual exceptions were made due to COVID-19 restrictions in an attempt to accommodate those willing to participate but unable to travel due to the virus. Since then, International March of Diekirch officials have stated that virtual events are no longer authorized and will not be recognized by the Marche Internationale de Diekirch. USAMM reached out to them to confirm that virtual events were no longer authorized and received no response, but it was clearly stated on the International March of Diekirch’s Facebook page.
Unit leaders planning a virtual International March of Diekirch should check with the organizers to ensure that the event will be authorized to earn the MID.
The 54th edition of the International March of Diekirch will take place June 3-4, 2023 in the rolling terrain of the Ardennes Forest in northern Luxembourg. There is a fee to register and participate in the event. Those interested in attending should visit the International March of Diekirch’s website for more information. There are accommodations nearby and also camping at the march itself. Food stands are situated along the march’s route.
In 2022, the U.S. Army Human Resources Command announced that the MID would not be allowed for wear on the U.S. Army uniform. Citing a multitude of reasons, including that soldiers had to pay to participate in the march, the Army deliberated the decision after backlash from soldiers in the field who argued the International March of Diekirch was not only an international team building event, but that it was also a good training opportunity for units.
The award of the MID was reauthorized on Dec. 14, 2022 and is backdated to Aug. 31, meaning troops who received the medal from walking in the International March of Diekirch during the period when the Army had banned the MID for permanent wear can now petition the first one-star general in their chain of command to add them to their ribbon racks. The award is a medal and a ribbon that can be permanently worn on U.S. Army uniforms.
Army officials removed the MID from the approved-for-wear list in August 2022 because they felt payment of registration fees violated military rules against soliciting foreign awards and badges. HRC also questioned the validity of MIDs earned through virtual events, which Luxembourg authorized due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
One of the arguments presented in support of reauthorizing the MID was by a U.S. officer who said that limiting the awards took away opportunities for soldiers to connect with allies. She argued that completing the marches and being awarded the MIDs, awards of U.S. Allies, matters when Americans interact with allies formally. She further argued that it is a shared experience that can bridge language and cultural gaps.
The rules of the march are simple, according to the march’s website:
- Civil and military persons without age limit may participate.
- Children under 10 years have to be accompanied by an adult person.
- There is no weight restriction of luggage for military persons.
- Every walker participates at the event at his own risk.
- Participation can be done individually or in group, regardless the category enrolled.
Registration is easy. The march’s website states:
Registrations for individuals or groups can be done via the online app by following the instructions on http://www.marche.lu. Registration is also possible on site.
Hikers can participate either on Saturday, Sunday or on both days. On every day, they can choose among three routes. After registration, participants receive a confirmation by email.
First aid services are available at the International March of Diekirch. As previously mentioned, stands for food supply are installed along the route. The march will no longer distribute disposable plastic cups because they are harmful to the environment. They ask that walkers bring their own reusable drinking vessels or to buy them at the march.
It is also requested that garbage be tossed in acceptable receptacles and smoking is strictly prohibited at the event and along the route.
The International March of Diekirch is a great event not just to earn foreign awards, but also to see beautiful European countryside and bond with members of other countries.
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