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Gold Star families brave rainy weather to support each other at Carry The Load event in Dallas on Memorial Day

"I want to turn my grief into honor. And that's what we help parents do. And that's how we get through it," said Terry Burgess.

Despite heavy rain, families gathered at Reverchon Park in Dallas Memorial Day to resume the tradition shortened last year by a pandemic.

Gold Star families, fueled by the chance to gather together and support each other, renewed their goals to keep names, faces and stories of sacrifice alive.  

The tradition on the final day of the Memorial Day events sponsored by the nonprofit group Carry The Load, is a midday Memorial Day parade of the placards that bear the names, faces, dates of death and stories of military members and first responders killed in the line of duty.  

As they have each year, Terry and Beth Burgess carried the placard for their son to the stage erected near the Reverchon Park entrance. Staff Sgt. Bryan Allan Burgess, 29, of Cleburne, Texas, a member of the 101st Airborne, was killed in Afghanistan in March of 2011. 

Credit: WFAA

"It's been ten years," his father Terry Burgess said. "And there are still days it will hit us like a brick. And then there's events like Carry The Load, where we can't share his story enough."  

Terry and Beth Burgess, in their attempt to keep their son's stories and his sacrifice alive, started Gold Star Parents Retreat: a gathering of Gold Star families to support each other every year.  

"I want to turn my grief into honor. And that's what we help parents do. And that's how we get through it," said Burgess. 

"Not only to honor my son but to honor everyone's son," said Merri Coz, a Gold Star mom attending the Carry The Load event for the first time. 

Her son U.S. Army SPC Ryan Coz, 24, suffered a line of duty death at Fort Drum, New York in August of 2016. His sister Ashley made the trip to Dallas to attend her first event as well. 

Credit: Coz Family

"You can't walk this walk alone," Coz said. "You need community. You need each other."

Sherry Jennings Kevianne joined them while carrying a placard with the name and picture of her husband Julian. 

Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, 31, was among the 16 Marines who died in the crash of a KC-130 aircraft in Mississippi in July of 2017. 

"Every day is hard. Every day is different," she said. "But every day I live to make him proud. And to say his name." 

Credit: Sherry Jennings Kevianne

And that is why, in its 10th year, the Carry The Load event exists: so that all these families that are carrying the names, faces and memories can find strength in each other. 

"That's how we honor him. That's how we carry him," added Terry Burgess.

"This carries us forward the rest of the year," Beth Burgess said. "This is our family. This is our tribe. It literally picks us up and carries us forward."

At each Carry The Load event, they plant a field of American flags, each one representing an American in uniform lost since 9/11. According to the Department of Defense, that total is more than 7,057 souls now. 

These families want people to understand and grasp that number. 

"Everyone who raises their right hand, everyone owes them a debt I believe," Coz said. "Very few serve. And they (the general public) don't know the meaning of it. And he was willing to give his life for ours."

And so, they carry their memories on Memorial Day and every day, while enlisting the rest of us in the effort to keep carrying them too.