How ABAC students are restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day

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By William Bowen: Staff Writer

“Carry The Load” is an organization focused on restoring the original meaning of Memorial Day and honoring the sacrifices of veterans and first responders.
ABAC students marched with “Carry The Load” through Tifton on March 22nd to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day. Congress declared Memorial Day an official federal holiday in 1971 to honor members of the military who died while serving.
ABAC students marched with “Carry The Load”, an organization that intends to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day, and how ABAC students are helping. “We do a lot of walking, but it’s not about the walking, it’s about the talking – the conversation you have on the walk” – Bryce Roland, ABAC student, and “Carry The Load” volunteer
A few ABAC students explained why they march, what Carry The Load means to them, and how they’re helping.
1st-year volunteer and ABAC student Scout Weesner gave her thoughts on “Carry The Load”
Why did you start volunteering with “Carry The Load?”
“I thought it was a great cause and I – you know they said you’d never get to see the country this way again, and I just thought it would be a great experience for me to get out there and to experience the world this way and not only do that but honor our fallen soldiers and our veterans and our first responders and I just thought it would be an amazing experience, and it has been so far” She replied.
What does “Carry The Load” mean to you?
“Carry The Load” means a lot to me now that I’ve gone out and experienced it like, I have a whole new appreciation for everything, I mean before going into this I appreciated our military and first responders but now that I’ve gotten to not only honor them but I’ve gotten to see a bunch of them and hear a bunch of stories… it’s just been a very moving experience and I will remember this for the rest of my life… “Carry The Load” means a lot to me”
Fellow 1st-year volunteer and student Elijah Gagnon also gave his input.
What does “Carry The Load” mean to you?
“It’s a great way to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day, which is not barbecues and meeting with the family, it’s to honor the people who sacrificed their life – whether it be veterans
or first responders, EMS, all those people,” he said. “It’s just a nice way to spend the rest of memorial day and Memorial week doing something that isn’t barbecues and recognizing the people we lost throughout the years.”
This is Mr. Ghenon’s first trip with “Carry The Load”, but that didn’t stop him from leading the first march through the heavy rain from Destiny Fitness to Lowes.
As they marched the 4 miles from Lowes to ABAC the weather lightened up, and many more marchers joined in. Police officers even escorted the marchers throughout the busy intersections.
Meanwhile, at ABAC 2 year volunteer and ABAC student Bryce Roland prepared for the marchers to arrive and answered some questions.
How did you start volunteering with “Carry The Load?”
Mr. Roland explained that he first heard about “Carry The Load” from a former ABAC student who showed him a promotional video. “I just fell in love with the idea of it and loved it so much I came back for a second year,” he said.
“So, “Carry The Load” has had a long relationship with ABAC, and I actually heard about It, about a past ABAC volunteer, Mitchell Sheffield… and he showed me a video about it, and I just fell in love with the idea of it and loved it so much I came back for a second year.”
What does “Carry The Load” mean to you?
“I do not come from a military background. Fortunately, I’ve never lost anyone in the line of duty or anything like that, but a lot of our stuff – I like to say, ‘We do a lot of walking, but it’s not about the walking, it’s about the talking, the conversation you have on the walk’. And when, ya know, a gold star family or a friend of someone who they lost, just pours out their heart to you – shares those stories with you, to a complete stranger, that means a lot to me.” he stated.
What were the most memorable experiences that you’ve had so far, and how did last year’s experience help you with this year?
So last year was my first year, so I was pretty much a newbie to it all – definitely gave me a lot to know what to expect coming into this year. The best experience I’ve had, I’ve got to say it’s great to be back at ABAC, for “Carry The Load” to be back here, it’s special to me, ABAC is a special place to me, Carry The Load is a special organization. ABAC’s special, Rescue 5 Fire station at Staten Island – always a great experience – but I say the best one’s just when you’re walking, and you’re sweating, or it’s cold or it’s raining, and you’re just absolutely miserable, and then someone’s talking to you, and they share a story, and you’re like ‘wow’, that helps you just go that one more mile, that one more leg, it helps you keep going, that’s what’s special.” he said.
When asked who he was carrying, he responded, “So I carry a lot of people, whether it be someone I met… their loved ones – that they lost, but today specifically, since I’m kinda near
my home I’ll be carrying my grandfathers, Lawton Roland and John Vickers, Army and Navy, they passed away recently. And I’m also carrying Harold “Pinky” Durham, who was an ABAC alumnus who is a medal of honor recipient from ABAC.” he responded.
“Carry The Load” has had a big effect on Mr. Roland. He explained how his experience volunteering with them changed him.
“So, the reason why “Carry TheLoad” was founded was that people thought it was a day to get a mattress half-off or a day off at the lake, and I’ll admit that I was one of those people. I knew what Memorial Day was, but I didn’t recognize it for all it was. Ya know, going out to the lake, that’s fine. But you got to know why you’re out there. And I was one of those people, I was one of those who did not appreciate the sacrifices of our country. Those people did not die for one day out of the year, they did not die for our freedoms one day, they died for our freedoms 365 days a year forever, and that’s what has grown me as a person, seeing that we should be remembering those names forever. All the time, all the day. We don’t have to have a national relay every day of the year, we don’t have to have a rally here at ABAC every day, but we should always have them in our minds, and that’s what’s changed me for the most part.” Half an hour after Mr. Roland’s interview, the marchers arrived at a cheering crowd. Mr. Roland gave a short speech about how important it was to honor our nation’s heroes and thanked all the marchers for coming out.

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