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Taking a hike to take back Memorial Day

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The author of this entry is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or
Tom Pauken
Texas Workforce Commission
May 25, 2012 | 1,941 views | Post a comment

This Memorial Day many Americans will hit the lake, light up the grill, or take a family drive to enjoy the good life so many of our soldiers have fought for, and died to, preserve.

This year, however, thousands from across the nation and here in Texas will sacrifice their own personal comfort by taking up a challenge to remember our wounded and fallen servicemen. Throughout the month of May, they will “carry a load” by walking along five-mile stretches from New York to Texas to raise support for several worthy veterans’ causes and help reclaim the Memorial Day holiday.

The Carry the Load National Relay, which was co-founded last year in Dallas by former Navy SEAL Clint Bruce, consists of 350 five-mile segments covering 1,700 miles. This year’s relay began May 1 at West Point, N.Y., and is scheduled to end in Dallas May 27-28.

The goal, according to event organizers, is “to carry the load for others, to carry more than you think you can, further than you think you can.” And they hope that this year 500,000 will answer that call by taking either a minutes-long walk or a 20-hour, overnight trek.

Since this is an event open to all ages and abilities, participants are allowed to simply take a short stroll with a few items in hand -- such as a photo of a fallen hero or an American flag. But, others will “ruck it” with a heavy field pack for the full 20 hours.

My longtime friend B.J. Bjorklund is determined to hike overnight for the whole 20 hours in Dallas. He will carry with him the names of his fallen classmates -- nine U.S. Air Force Academy classmates who lost their lives during the Vietnam War -- as well as his generous sponsors.

B.J. wrote me: “Let’s not let Memorial Day become just another day off or a day for a mattress sale.”

A major beneficiary of the Dallas relay is Heroes on the Water, which was founded by Jim Dolan, a fellow Air Force Academy graduate of B.J.’s. Heroes on the Water helps disabled returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan stay active by kayaking and fishing. Another beneficiary is Tip of the Spear, which provides support for those involved in U.S. Army and Navy Special Operations and their families during times of need.

The relay also honors law enforcement officers and firefighters for the work they do in keeping us safe. Two other groups supported by the relay include the Assist the Officer Foundation, which provides counseling to ill and wounded police officers and their families, and the Friends of Dallas Fire and Rescue, which promotes fire safety.

The Dallas opening ceremony (and the official end of the national relay) begins around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 27, at Reverchon Park (3505 Maple Ave.). A closing ceremony is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, May 28, at the park. There’s no entry fee for participants or those cheering on the walkers.

What better way to give meaning to Memorial Day than to join together in remembrance of those in uniform who have carried the load for us? As a Vietnam veteran, I especially remember on Memorial Day the more than 57,000 of my fellow American soldiers who gave their lives during that war.

To sponsor a walker in this year’s relay, or learn more about the relay, visit

Tom Pauken is Commissioner Representing Employers for the Texas Workforce Commission and a Vietnam veteran.
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