FORT HOOD — Participants in the Carry the Load — a walk and cycle event that honors fallen military and law enforcement members — from the West Coast made a stop in Fort Hood on Thursday to witness the third annual Carry the Load Rally.
About a dozen participants rallied at the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment training area for the color guard posting of the colors, the national anthem sung by country music artist Carl Hutchens, a Vietnam veteran from Galena Park; and a demonstration by the horse detachment.
Carry the Load is a nonprofit organization providing a way to honor the nation’s military, law enforcement, firefighters, rescue personnel and their families.
The West Coast group of Carry the Load participants began their trek in Seattle, Washington, on April 25 and have traveled a total of 4,600 miles to get to Fort Hood, said Tom Wendling, a participant in Carry the Load. Every segment, which is the distance between stops, that the participants walk or ride, they are carrying someone on their back in the form of a piece of paper with the fallen military, law enforcement, firefighter or rescue personnel members name, department and date of death.
“What we’re trying to do is bring awareness to the sacrifices that the first responders, the military or veterans (made),” Wendling said, adding their families have also endured much sacrifice.
“You die twice, once when you actually die, second when your name leaves the lips of your friends and family,” Wendling said. The members of the West Coast relay are doing what they can to make sure that the second part does not happen.
Smitty Searles has worked with Carry the Load’s national relay for the last eight years.
“It is always special to be invited onto an Army base. These are the soldiers that we hope we are never walking for, but we know that we unfortunately probably will,” he said.
The organization brought countless participants together to walk and cycle from the West Coast, Midwest and East Coast and gather in Dallas over the Memorial Day weekend.
Guest speakers at the event included III Corps chief of staff Col. Hank Perry, retired Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk Sr., Lt. Mike Perez of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and Searles from the Carry the Load organization.