Thursday night I had an awesome, weird, random and incredible experience...I walked 3/4 of a mile (roughly).
Whoohoo. Big deal right? Everyone's done that at some point in their life. But this wasn't just any walking. This was walking on a two lane windy mountain road in 40 degree weather. I had a police car in front of, and behind, me, and I was walking with Matt.
Let me back up. Several months ago, I signed up to participate in the Carry The Load event in Dallas, TX. This is a non-profit fundraising event that has several purposes- 1) to restore people's understanding of the true meaning of Memorial Day, 2) honor the fallen military, fire, police etc who died for our freedom, and 3) to raise funds for national organizations who support our nation's veterans. I've raised over $650 personally and my team (SGT Nuevo's Zombie Brigade*) has raised over $1500.**
I'm very excited about this event which is a 20 hr event in which people walk or run however long they want/can during the 20 hrs. The idea is that these heroes pushed themselves to their personal limits, so for 20 hours let's honor them by pushing ourselves and "carrying their load". I plan on walking/running 12 hours solid.
So back to Thursday. Dallas is the final culmination of a national relay that started in NY at the end April. As the relay goes across the country to Dallas, people who signed on to be the designated load carriers walk, run or bike various legs of the relay until reaching Dallas. They usually walk about 10-12 miles within two legs a day. Matt was walking through Dunlap (just north of Chattanooga) around 8pm last night (CST).
I told my friend who lives in Dunlap and she agreed to go with me. I had no idea what to expect. I knew during the day legs that they could have anywhere from a couple people walking to hundreds. But nighttime is very different. After having the wrong location for the start point, finally finding it, and catching up to the relay, I see one lone guy carrying the Carry The Load flag. He has a headlamp on and is being police escorted. My friend stayed in her car and followed so I wouldn't have to walk back somewhere later.
Matt is a college student - he'll graduate in December with a business degree. His dad had an office job in the Air Force but never went overseas. He, on all accounts, is not someone who'd seem to have an interest in doing a relay across the country. But after a professor mentioned it in class he decided he needed to. Matt wants people to realize the incredible sacrifice these men & women have made, but also the sacrifice of the families, like mine, who are changed forever whether because of a loved ones fatality, injury, psychological change, etc. So he walks. He's walked in pouring rain, extreme winds, up mountains, during the day, at night where all sorts of animals rustle the leaves, sometimes with a police escort...but usually just all by himself until his leg is completed.
So for 3/4 of a mile or so I walked with him. He was startled initially but seemed thankful to hear my story and have some company for those few short minutes. It reenergized me for Dallas! Im excited to have this chance. I'm thankful for all the men & women who will take Memotial Day seriously this year, in whatever way they choose, and honor those who've paid the ultimate price.
*the name comes from an intensely crazy workout regimen that my brother created; we found the document listing all the exercises on his laptop when we were planning his funeral
**if you would like to donate to my team, I'm asking you to donate for my friend Brenda to get her to her next fundraising level by visiting http://tinyurl.com/Brendaparrott