Who are you carrying?

I went for a jog at the Katy Trail this Memorial Day morning, having no clue that it was the site of the 20 hour, 12 minute Carry the Load walk. Having just arrived in town the previous night, I was also unaware that a rigorous 1700-mile CTL relay had started May 1st in West Point, NY, and wrapped up in Dallas yesterday at 3:48pm, just as the local “flagship” walk began. Crazy.

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With a little research I learned that Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley (both former SEALs) founded this event last year due to their desire “to put meaning back into Memorial Day.” After a very successful 2011 Dallas walk, their vision expanded to include the National Relay, giving thousands of people an opportunity to revere our country’s countless fallen heroes and support the surviving military families who now live out their legacy.

I observed that most participants had some sort of bulky bag strapped on their backs, and some wore massive black vests that held who knows how much weight. As pack-less me sweated bullets jogging past these heavily burdened walkers, I whispered prayers of gratitude and watched them with wonder.

Abstract movie scenes and news clips of boot camps, front lines, barbed wire, bullet wounds, crammed barracks, mess halls, aid stations, grave sites, war memorials and more came to mind. If called to such a demanding duty, would I ever survive? Would I ever willingly choose that life? Can I even begin to understand what the words service and sacrifice mean to these men and women?

Regardless of our personal viewpoints on war, peace, and politics, it is undeniable that millions of past and present American citizens have counted the cost and “carried the load” in an effort to protect the rest of our lives and freedoms. And in response, the CTL event’s tagline asks a thought-provoking question to each of us: Who are you carrying?