Joe Wolfel, a former Navy SEAL from Arlington, walked ten miles from Alexandria to Mount Vernon to honor the memory of the fallen.
“I got out and one of my buddies died,” recalled Wolfel. “I wanted to bring awareness to the true meaning of Memorial Day. It’s not just a day off from work.”
Wolfel joined participants in the Carry the Load relay as it passed through the Mount Vernon area on Monday. The 1700-mile relay started in West Point, N.Y. and is raising awareness about the true meaning of Memorial Day, one town at a time.
Founder Clint Bruce, a veteran and former SEAL, founded Carry the Load last year to carry on the legacy of fallen soldiers and to honor active duty military and first responders. The group paid a visit to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen and meet with some of their comrades.
“It’s been really special,” Bruce said. “Especially Arlington, we walked around with some guys we served with and the families of the fallen. Being on that hallowed ground was the most special part for me. I was carrying the kids of my buddies who aren’t there anymore. It was very somber.”
Lauren Myers of Belle View carried the load with her husband, Rob, and their young daughter. The couple served in different branches of the military – Lauren served in the Air Force and is now in the reserves; Rob is a former Navy SEAL. The couple brought their children with them to teach them the true meaning of Memorial Day. Both Lauren and Rob have lost friends who served in the line of duty. Lauren walked 6 miles with the flag, while Rob walked 20 miles.
“It was great,” Lauren said. “It was a beautiful day. People stopped me and asked me what’s with the flag, and I’d tell people about Carry the Load and the meaning of Memorial Day.”
The couple may fly down to Dallas for the Carry the Load event on May 27.
Carry the Load has been getting a lot of support from community members in the D.C. area.
“People hear about it and instantly get it and start walking with us,” Bruce said. “It’s that grateful cross-section of America. It’s that mix of people.”
The group was slightly behind schedule on Monday because they spent a little extra time at Arlington National Cemetery, according to Executive Director Coleman Ruiz. Participants will bike portions of the relay to make up for lost time.
“We’ll be back on schedule when we hit Charlottesville tomorrow,” Ruiz remarked.
The relay will finish in Dallas, Texas on May 27 at 3:48 p.m., as the Carry the Load event in Dallas begins. The relay is divided into 350 five-mile segments. All contributions raised during the relay will benefit nonprofits including the Snowball Express, Yellow Ribbon Fund and RWB Team.