'Carry the Load' walkers complete Memorial Day tribute

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by CYNTHIA VEGA

WFAA

Posted on May 28, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Updated Monday, May 28 at 12:50 PM

DALLAS — The last leg of a grueling journey reached completion along the Katy Trail in Dallas on Monday.

Thousands have walked or jogged for 20 hours and 12 minutes through the night and under a hot sun to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by members of the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and their families.

They're all taking part in Carry the Load, a Memorial Day fundraiser now in its second year. Organizers say the thousands of participants are on track to raise nearly a half-million dollars in donations this year. The money will help wounded soldiers and their families.

Participant Jeff Staubach is walking for the second year. At hour 18, he appeared to be drenched with sweat and said he's nearly delirious from the lack of sleep.

No matter, Staubach said —  he is inspired by those around him, and by so many who have made much bigger sacrifices to protect our nation's freedom.

Staubach says even though he did not serve in the military, he's walking for the Blue Devils who died in battle.

Many participants are making the 20-hour journey as a member of a team.

Cindy Lee says she's joining up with co-workers. She's one of many carrying a heavy backpack, challenging herself even more. Lee told News 8 her backpack is what keeps her going. It's filled with valuable memories that include her grandfather's photos from World War II; her girlfriend's father who served in the Vietnam War; and photos of her friends who are currently serving in the military, whether at home or abroad.

Vietnam veteran Phil Sawyer told News 8 he has mixed emotions about the Memorial Day events. He has volunteered his time to help organize the event, which he says inspires him and saddens him at the same time.

Sawyer said he never got a warm homecoming, but is bolstered to see such a show of support through Carry the Load.

Sawyer said it's the same kind of support now extended to our nation's soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, of which his son is one.

Following today's grueling 20-hour trek, participants will head to nearby Reverchon Park for a two-hour celebration.

Two ex-Navy SEALs from Dallas came up with the idea of Carry the Load. Last year, they held the event at White Rock Lake.

E-mail cvega@wfaa.com

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