BOSTON - The Carry the Load national relay includes moms and dads, brothers and sisters, spouses, and friends that have all walked the road of remembrance before.
Aside from military veterans, the now annual event serves to honor the service and memory of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders.
It began for a small group on Sunday morning in Boston with a rally and march down the historic Freedom Trail.
For men like Jacob Schick, there was a special significance in seeing folks gather at historic Bunker Hill.
"We take that thing called freedom for granted," says Schick, who lost a leg while serving in Iraq.
The 2,100-mile trek officially begins on Monday at West Point, and culminates with the annual Dallas Memorial March on Memorial Day weekend.
But for widows like Heather Arwine, the kickoff march and rally in Boston proved most meaningful. She lost her husband Jason, a Marine sergeant who served for eight years, just last fall.
“Is it going to be painful? Is it going to be wonderful? It’s so hard to tell,” Heather said during a recent interview with WFAA.
She and Jason honeymooned in Boston just a few short years ago.
On Sunday, she walked the same steps they shared back then.
"It's emotional. We passed some of the same spots we took photos," she said.
The couple quickly fell in love after a chance meeting in Dallas.
Soon after, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, but Heather says that only made their relationship grow stronger.
It's a big reason why she chose to honor his memory by organizing this year's Jason’s Warriors team.
During this year’s East Coast route, which includes stops at places like West Point, the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan, Washington D.C., the Carolinas and Arkansas, the 32-year-old hopes she can connect with other women who share her struggle.
“Young and widowed, we’re a very small part of the population. There will definitely be that sense of community,” says Heather.
In 2016, WFAA was proud to showcase the relay’s first-ever national West Coast route kickoff from Seattle, which is once again happening concurrently this year.
To follow the relay team’s progress, check out the organization’s Facebook page.
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