Carry The Load honors vets in Laurel on way to Dallas

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Posted at 10:55 PM, May 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-19 10:33:47-04

LAUREL - A 20,000-mile national relay that started in late April and ends on Memorial Day came through Laurel on Thursday.

The goal is to raise $2.25 million to help military veterans, first responders, and their families.

The Carry The Load walk started at the fire station and the Montana Firefighters Memorial in downtown Laurel.

They walked almost two miles up here to the Yellowstone National Cemetery.

It's a meaningful and symbolic walk leading up to Memorial Day.

"The greatest tragedy that an American in military uniform could face is not that they may be killed in action or died in the line of service," said Ed Saunders, U.S. Army veteran. "The greatest tragedies are forgotten. Forgotten in life and forgotten in death."

Saunders served in the Persian Gulf and uses the walk to remember veterans in his family.

"For my father, my wife's father, my wife's brother, and a dear friend of mine, that I'm named after too," said Saunders.

It's such a special walk that Saunders and his wife Charlene made the journey by themselves without the bus and the entourage in 2020.

"That hill represents the struggle, the discipline and the effort that not only the walkers go through, but it commemorates the effort that the veterans have gone through in their service," Saunders said about the a hill on 1st Avenue heading toward the cemetery.

Jim Thompson serves on the board of the National Courage Foundation, which helps veterans with PTSD.

He is not a veteran, but he says he wants to pay the ultimate respect to those who have served in the military.

"People who serve put their lives on the line," said Thompson. "Their families put their hopes and dreams on hold so that their loved one can go out and be fighting for us to live in this great country."

The Mountain States route that started in Minot, North Dakota went on display for citizens in Laurel.

"I hope they see a group of people who are united, who love this country and love the people who have given their lives for it," said Kristoff Cohran, Carry The Load leg captain.

This is one of five walks with it all ending in Dallas on Memorial Day.

Cohran says Carry The Load serves as a reminder about the reason for Memorial Day and it can also help with patriotism.

"Share the stories that I hear and share my experiences with other people so that you know I can be part of the spark to reunite people with the true meaning of Memorial Day," Cohran said.

The remembrance can be even more special when a veteran carries for another veteran.

"Veterans have a bond," Saunders said. "It just has a special meaning in your heart to keep that connection. That's what I liked about it today."