“We can walk a couple of hours because we know families who live Memorial Day every day. They have to walk in those Memorial Day shoes every day,” Coleman Ruiz, a Carry the Load board member.
He said one of the purposes behind the walk is to recognize people’s sacrifices.
“If you had been in New York City with us yesterday, you would have seen 40 9/11 families walking with us and how much they appreciate the fact that we haven’t forgotten,” Ruiz said.
Carry the Load is celebrating its second cross-country event this year.
However, it began in 2011 in Dallas, as a 20-hour, 11-minute walk.U.S. Naval Academy graduates and U.S. Navy veterans Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley created the event.
“The thought was, ‘We should get out and do a walk, and give people a chance to engage in the community and tell stories,’” said Ruiz, also an academy graduate and veteran.
Now, the relay will end in Dallas with a 20-hour, 13-minute walk. On its 15th day, the relay will hit Decatur Tuesday at 10 a.m., at Memorial Drive and George Luther Drive at Wendy’s.
At noon, it will be in Atlanta, at 2440 Ga. 154. At 2 p.m., the walk will continue at 10th Street and Argonne Avenue at Piedmont Park, and the last Atlanta stop is at 6 p.m., at West Marietta Street and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.
“Coming through Atlanta is a major change,” Ruiz said. ”We thought it was important to get closer to [the] South, so we swung south a little bit further for lots of different reasons — people we know, military bases and organizations.”
The relay is broken into 5-mile segments throughout the country, and every 5-mile point is an exchange spot. “Folks can show up at any one of those exchange points,” he said. “Somebody’s always physically moving at some point in time to [the] next exchange point.”
While no participant is required to register to walk, donors must register in order to give money.
“All of the money we raise goes to our primary beneficiaries [TAPS., Snowball Express and Team Red, White and Blue],” Ruiz said. “We’re raising funds for veteran organizations that already do good work.”
Last year, the relay generated $500,000 and they donated about $300,000 to the organizations. The rest went to the organization’s operating funds, he said. This year, Ruiz said he hopes the relay raises $1 million.
“If we could [bring in] double, that would be spectacular, but Carry the Load was never designed to be something you have to register to pay for,” he said. “When you come through places people live, you get a chance to speak to them on how they feel about Memorial Day, and why it is not just another holiday. … I can guarantee every town in America has someone who has lost someone.”
If you go:
o What: Carry the Load relay
o When: May 14
o Where: Four exchange points in Atlanta
o Benefits: veterans organizations
o Information: www.carrytheload.org.