DALLAS — Eleven years ago, two Navy Seals from Dallas came up with what they thought would be a good 'Dallas' idea: a solemn procession of the American names and faces lost in our nation's wars to remind us all what Memorial Day is really about.
But at the 2022 Memorial Day Weekend event, Stephen Holley and Clint Bruce could celebrate that the gathering of tens of thousands in Reverchon Park and along the Katy Trail has grown into a movement millions strong.
"I just really appreciate not only how much this means to Dallas but to the entire nation," said Carry The Load board member Ames Hutton.
As the Memorial Day events at Reverchon culminated with family members and friends carrying storyboards with the photos and names of soldiers and first responders lost in the line of duty, organizers and participants could quietly celebrate what Carry The Load has become.
The "Memorial May" events now include five cross-country relays, descending on Dallas from every corner of the United States, spreading the Carry The Load message with every mile. CTL now provides financial support and awareness for more than 50 veteran-service organizations helping veterans, first responders, and their families: a continuum of care that grows with each year.
"I've lost many, many friends in the wars, probably too many to name here. But I carry all of them, every day," said Marcus Capone of Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions. "And we're just humbled and happy to be part of something so great."
"I've been able to see veterans move from mourning into celebration and good memories of their fallen comrade," Ames Hutton said. "So it's really cathartic and helpful in their process to get through grieving and into celebration."
The moms and dads, the brothers and sisters, the spouses and the children grieving for the loved ones they lost will tell you that Reverchon Park, on Memorial Day, has become a pilgrimage: a place they have to be. It's where they find a community of people who understand their difficult journey and where they can find the strength to get through one more year.
"I'll be here until I can't walk," said Dallas firefighter/paramedic Beau York. "This is just something everybody should do at least once. And once you do it once you can't stop doing it. Just like me."
A walk, and a Memorial Day mission, that they promise will never end.