The fourth annual ‘Carry The Load’ Memorial Day event in Dallas included hundreds of visitors paying tribute to fallen police, firefighters and members of the military.
The memorial actually began April 29 at West Point, New York where a relay walk began making its way toward Dallas.
The relay concluded at Reverchon Park in Dallas with a 40 hour marathon carry on the Katy Trail.
Participants walked back and forth on the trail as long as they could, many of them carrying heavy loads to honor the fallen.
Former U.S. Army Captain Glen Dare wore fatigues and a 90 pound back pack with the names of 6 soldiers he knew who died in the line of duty.
“I wear all this stuff not because it’s comfortable,” he said. “Soldiers wear this uniform every single day. They die in this uniform every day.”
Former Marine Corporal Jake Schick, who lost a leg in Iraq, was also walking the course to honor others who never returned.
“This is what this day is all about,” he said. “It’s not about barbeques and car sales. This is what it’s about.”
Schick said he now works at The Center for Brain Health in Dallas, helping other veterans recover from their wounds.
“It’s good to get them back here, recalibrate their minds, get them right, give them the same tools to be effective citizens just like they were effective warriors, you know,” Schick said.
On her backpack, civilian participant Katie Rausch wore the name of a 26-year old friend who committed suicide after serving two tours of duty in combat.
“He wasn’t the same,” she said. “He suffered from PTSD and unfortunately, at 26-years-old, he lost that fight,” Rausch said.
Organizer Clint Bruce, a former U.S. Navy Seal, said veterans and first responders are bound to attend an event like this but he was encouraged to see so many families and friends who were never in the service.
“When you see people out here who don’t need to be here, they just want to be here, that’s when the reconciliation happens. That’s when you kind of shrink the gap,” he said.
Dallas firefighter Milton Williams wore a 50-pound back pack filled with items from 6 Dallas firefighters who died in the line of duty.
“This is about giving,” Williams said. “Giving honor and never forgetting the ones that were here and have gone before us.”
Bruce said organizers wanted 'Carry The Load' to be a celebration of the true reason for Memorial Day.
“It’s not a mattress sale. It’s not a car sale. But it’s also not a 3 day somber event,” Bruce said.
Air Force veteran Diana Cuesta was one of three living vets to receive a new car from charity at the closing ceremony.
Cuesta said the car she’d been driving was almost 20 years old with 300,000 miles, so the new car is a blessing that will help her with work and family.
“I’ve been waiting and I’ve been praying,” she said.
Bruce said organizers are already planning for next Memorial Day.