Carry the Load stops in Central Texas with message for holiday weekend

FORT HOOD, Texas (KWTX) Carry the Load, a non-profit organization, is determined to remind Americans the importance of remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day weekend.

Members from the West Coast made a stop Thursday afternoon for a rally on Fort Hood at the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment training area.

For the nine participants, their journey to Central Texas started on April 25 from Seattle, WA.

"To be able to share someone's grief over someone they lost…if that lightens their load just a little bit, that's what we're here for," Smitty Searles said.

He has been helping with Carry the Load for eight years.

Since 2011, Carry the Load has invited people from across the country to participate in the relays (walking or cycling) and to honor the fallen soldiers, first responders and their families. Names of those who have died are carried on the back of participants.

"We need to remember these folks who have served their country whether it is here on this continent or another continent that have made this world safer for us," JD Webb said.

Remembering those who’ve paid the ultimate price, the reason for the journey. Tony Wendling started the journey from the West Coast and has been either cycling or walking for more than 4,000 miles.

"Every segment – either walking or riding – we are carrying someone on our back,” Wendling said.

On his back was the name of a firefighter who recently died of cancer.

"You die twice, once when you actually die, second when your name leaves the lips of friends and family. That's part of what we're doing out here, the West Coast relay, is not to let that happen,” he said.

The West Coast team also had this reminder for the holiday weekend.

"It's okay to have a three-day weekend, it's okay to have a barbecue, but it's not okay to not take that moment and remember why it is a holiday."

During Thursday’s rally, the national anthem was sung by country music artist Carl Hutchens and there was a demonstration by the horse detachment unit.

The team’s final destination is Dallas where a march is planned for this weekend. Participants from at least 40 states are expected to attend.

Guest speakers included Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Hank Perry and retired Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk Sr. Lt. Mike Perez represented the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.

Part of the journey included stops in Belton Thursday evening and an overnight stay in Waco before heading towards the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Friday morning.