WASHINGTON — A cold DC street is not the first choice of these walkers at 5:30 in the morning, but considering why they’re walking, there’s no place better place to be.
Midshipman Tori Sharp and dozens of her fellow Naval Academy classmates are marching, even though final exams are imminent.
Less than a week since the start in New York, Carry the Load walkers soldier on, carrying the names of not just fallen service members, but fallen first responders whose sacrifices are often forgotten.
Case in point this police week: The National Fallen Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial, just blocks from the National Mall, the stone-etched names of badge-carrying law enforcers gathered in one place with barely a pair of eyes to appreciate them.
However, with every step, Carry the Load walkers' mobile tribute restores luster to the word "sacrifice" — and if any confusion remains about why they are here, it is quickly dispelled at Arlington National Cemetery.
That's where many of the walkers, including Kim Kelshall, have personal connections with someone lying here at rest. The 2011 death of her brother, Navy Lt. Commander Jonas Kelshall, brought her to this place.
She remembers most what he said during their last private dinner a few months before his death... about what she should do if he died. She did not want to have the conversation, but he insisted — urging her to do something with her life that would help others. And she has.
“I am so grateful that we had that conversation," Kelshall said.
Carry the Load co-founder Clint Bruce said Arlington National Cemetery is "certainly the most sacred one. Because of who we walk with, we have widows and kids... here they take us to where they lay."
All along the Carry the Load relay route, the stories of service members and first responders we have lost are shared by those whose lives they touched — and, more often than not — changed. They are stories told and re-told by those who do not believe in closure... only in learning to live with the pain of what happened, and cherishing the memory of what once was.
They all look forward to the two-day Carry the Load fundraiser rally in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend. This year’s finale promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s gathering.