Jeff Venable and Shonta Bradford at Day 2 of Carry the Load in 2013

Jeff Venable and Shonta Bradford at Day two of Carry the Load in 2013.

It’s been three years since I fully participated in the Carry The Load event. For me that meant going all in. My grandfather, a WWII vet had just died, I missed him terribly (still do), so I decided to take part in this run/walk, which organizers call “an active way to honor the military, law enforcement, firefighters and rescue personnel who dedicate their lives to keeping our country safe.”

Here’s the full story.

I looked at it this way: I could never know exactly what my grandfather felt when at 17 he left high school early and a few weeks later landed on Iwo Jima where enemy soldiers shot and permanently scarred him and ended many of his young friends’ lives. Or what my dad experienced walking through the jungles of Viet Nam, sleeping in mud and rain that made him ill, postponing law school, returning home to protesters rather than praise. I probably won’t ever know what it is like to run inside a burning building while everyone else is running out. Or what was going through medic Jeremy Marx’s mind as he treated a comrade who, following a battle in Iraq, had little left of his face. But I could run and hike my body to a state of utter exhaustion and physical pain, in the meditative frame of mind that resulted, I could better imagine their world, the experiences of all soldiers and emergency responders, and feel a deep and all-encompassing sense of gratitude. (And gratitude is the secret to life, I’ve found, a gift that infuses and enhances all aspects of it.)

The other participants —including Jeff Venable and Shonta Bradford pictured above — and I also used the event as a vehicle to raise money for Carry The Load, a 501 c3 nonprofit which supports military, law enforcement and fire-rescue personnel.

While it began with a couple local guys as an esoteric and personal thing, Carry the Load — now a 20-plus-hour walk to honor veterans, police and firefighters — has gained nationwide recognition and involvement. Participants walk as many as 20 hours, often carrying backpacks weighing 30-40 pounds or more to symbolize both the physical weight that soldiers carry as well as the weight of responsibility carried by first responders and military personnel.

This year’s Carry The Load is May 29 – 30 from 4 p.m.-12:16 p.m. Monday. It starts at Reverchon Park, and the course runs up and down the Katy Trail. 

“The Dallas Memorial March is a 20-hour 16-minute Memorial Day event honoring service members and their families for the sacrifices they make.You can join in the Memorial March at any time during the 20 hours and walk even for just a few minutes. You do not have to carry a weighted pack,” organizers note.

More Dallas Carry The Load Info.