For many, Memorial Day has become a celebration comprised of barbecues, parades and plenty of fun, but one group has been working overtime to ensure that the true meaning — commemorating the lives of fallen U.S. military heroes — won’t be forgotten.
Thousands of volunteers have once again come together through nonprofit Carry the Load to embark on a 31-day, 6,200-mile trip to remember the heroes who have protected America. Every participant has the name (or more than one name) of a fallen military hero sewn onto the back of his or her backpack, offering a touching tribute to those lost defending America.
One portion of the group met this month in Seattle, Washington, to embark on a 4,100-mile quest and the other started in West Point, New York, setting out on a 2,100-mile trip; both will conclude their relay efforts in Dallas, Texas, NBC News reported.
According to the Carry the Load website, the initiative is aimed at creating “a celebration of heroes, remembrance of the fallen, and education in respectful observance.”
There will be a joint march when the two groups reach Dallas to remember the lives of the fallen — but that’s not all. The Carry the Load effort also seeks to raise millions of dollars for veterans to help them attain homes, training and mental health support.
Last year’s event brought in $2 million, with this year’s effort aiming to raise $2.5 million, according to NBC News. Carry the Load has raised a total of $13.7 million since 2011.
For those who participate and for the families of the fallen, the event is a chance for loved ones to be remembered; it’s also an opportunity to honor profound sacrifice and to help veterans who are currently in need.
Retired Army Captain Glen Dare told NBC News that he plans to March in full gear when he reaches Dallas.
“I wear full combat load. I wear, basically, 85 pounds’ worth of body armor and ammunition to simulate what, you know, my brothers and sisters died in,” he said. “But that weight is not very much It’s the emotional load. It’s knowing the fact that I’m alive, and they’re not.”
Carry the Load was co-founded by former Navy SEAL Clint Bruce, who came up with the concept one day as he was sitting at a Memorial Day barbecue. As he pondered his friends who died in combat, he realized that some peoples’ perception of Memorial Day isn’t quite in sync with its intended purpose.
So, he took action and launched Carry the Load to help remind people what the holiday truly means and to help “make Memorial Day matter again.” From there, the effort took on a life of its own.
“What started as a mission to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day has broadened to include more than just our military heroes and more than just the one holiday,” a description of Carry the Load reads. “Carry The Load works to bring all American’s together to participate in honoring our nation’s heroes every day.”
Find out more about Carry the Load here.
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