Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

As many of you may have figured out, I am a bit of an amateur historian and chronic interrogator about all things involving history and mostly how it affects the present.

I have always considered myself a very patriotic person and have always admired those who chose to serve their country. My Dad joined most of his "Greatest Generation" in World War II and spent his time in the Pacific conflict. He came home and, like most veterans, never really spoke of the war or his involvement. I believe he was greatly effected by his time in the war because he always steered the conversation away to the really fun times he had, prior to deployment, taking in the Hawiaan Islands of the early 40's before the tourists ruined it. His passing created a big void in my life in that, by the time I really got curious about his exploits, he was gone.

So it was with great pride that my daughter called me asking if I wanted to get involved with her company, MCS, to donate and walk for Carry the Load. It's mission is to bring meaning to Memorial Day by honoring the sacrifices made by members of the military, law enforcement officers, firefighters and their families while serving our country and communities, especially those who have died or were wounded while carrying the load for their fellow Americans.

There's even a 1700 mile Carry the Load Relay which started in West Point, N.Y. on May 1st and continued non-stop for 1,700 miles before it ended in Dallas on May 27th. The route was divided into 350, 5-mile individual and group sponsored segments.

The Carry the Load founders Stephen Holley, Clint Bruce and Coleman Ruiz, felt there has been a disconnect between what Memorial Day means, and how it is observed today. The three former Navy Seals were all deeply effected by their wartime experiences and couldn't find an outlet for their feelings at the loss of their comrades. Carrying those feelings around with them was like carrying a weight they couldn't seem to unload no matter how hard they tried. So they determined to honor those who are serving, have served or passed by starting "Carry the Load" which came to include all those who serve their country whether it's the military or in public service.               

We (well....I) were a little out of shape and so we signed up for the last two hours of the 24 hour event which started on Sunday and ended Monday at Reverschon Park in the Highland Park section of Dallas. My daughter Nicole works for MCS, a real estate property preservation, maintenance and inspection company based in Plano, Texas with offices in Tampa , Florida. MCS is a co-sponsor of the event and matched employee contributions to encourage them to join.

Led by MCS CEO Caroline Reaves (very bright OSHA green shirt), we made the 5 mile walk, dodging joggers with those big wheel strollers (what's up with that?), runners, in-line skaters and bicyclists in just over two hours in a gloriously sunny but humid, Texas Memorial Day.

I was struck by the number of people who were "carrying loads". At the starting line, there was a place to weigh whatever load you were carrying. I saw firehoses, fully loaded old ruck sacks, Alice packs and even one of our MCS folks carrying a shadow boxed flag (you go Anthony!) that had draped the casket of a loved one. Many had carried them the entire 24 hours and covered like 60 miles.

We started at Reverschon Park, part of the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation system which led us to the walking route above the park. Known as the Katy Trail, the trail follows the old railroad bed of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT, shortened to Katy).

In the early 1990s, citizens and the City proposed creating a greenbelt along the railroad route and creating an urban park as part of the national Rails to Trails Conservancy program, established in 1986. In 1997, a Friends of the Katy Trail non-profit got involved and brought in corporate and private donations to make it a reality. Begun in 2000, it's a combination of concrete path and a secondary soft recycled-rubber track is built parallel for runners. It actually runs from the American Airlines Center in Victory Park to Mockingbird Station (a DART light rail station) near Southern Methodist University (future home of the George Bush Presidential Library). The plan isn't complete with several more features on the planning table.

I think everybody there had a great time, especially at the big Budweiser Blowout end of the walk celebration afterward. I have to say, it wasn't your typical Memorial Day activity (my feet hurt more than Disneyland 2000) but a very rewarding one honoring those who made our Memorial Days possible by sacrificing their family time and sometimes their lives to keep us free.

I want to thank MCS for allowing me to join them and help "Carry the Load" in Dallas.

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