A few months ago, SDIA announced that they were named a 2017 nonprofit partner of Carry The Load (CTL), a nonprofit dedicated to restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day and providing active, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes throughout the year. Sheep Dogs who have given the ultimate sacrifice are honored and remembered – their load carried – at CTL events.

One of CTL’s largest events is the National Relay, which has teams of people raising money and walking, running or bicycling 5+-mile legs of the over 6,200-mile routes throughout the month of May. The routes begin on the East and West Coasts, and meet in Dallas, TX, on Memorial Day weekend for the Memorial March. CTL’s founder carried one pound of weight for each of the people he carried on that first Memorial Day walk; now participants are encouraged to carry weighted backpacks with the names of those they are carrying the load for on it.

Three of SDIA’s teams and chapters – Western NC (WNC) Chapter, Eastern TN (ETN) Team, and Central AR (CAR) Chapter – recently participated in legs of the East Coast Relay, and more than 40 SDIA staff and members from Texas and the Northwest Arkansas & Kansas Chapters will be on hand at the Memorial March feeding participants and manning the SDIA booth in the Nonprofit Partner Tent.

On May 19, the ETN Team – led by Team Leader Chadd Landress – set off on their 11+ mile walk through Nashville, completing two legs of the relay. Not surprising to those who know him, Landress made the commitment to carry the load for his fellow firefighters; also not surprising was how he went above and beyond simply carrying their names.

“I have decided to carry the load, and carry the load for many,” said Landress. How many?

377.

All firefighters who gave their lives serving their country and communities.

All written on both sides of 50 feet of fire hose and carried throughout the 11+ miles walked.

Who are these firefighters?

  • The 343 of FDNY who died on 9/11
  • Two Tennessee Sheep Dogs the team had assisted
  • 33 firefighters from the Tri-Cities, TN, area who died in the line of duty in 2017

The final addition to the list was Dustin Curtis, an Elizabethton firefighter who died on May 14; Curtis’s funeral was the day before the ETN team set out on their walk, making CTL’s relay that much more meaningful to Landress and the team.

“I won’t live forever,” Landress explained. “I just want to create something that will. Hopefully, it inspires others to never forget those that sacrifice all.” He said it best when asked to explain the reason or motivation behind the hose.

“You know, there’s that saying: ‘never forget.’

We’re not forgetting those that served, especially just going through what we went through this week and the funeral today. When we lose somebody from the fire service or military or [other first responder professions], what everybody forgets is the aftermath that’s left behind for years to follow. You may never see their face again, but you don’t forget that loss…that last page over the radio at the funeral. You don’t forget the look on the small child’s face as the Fire Chief hands over to him his dad’s fire helmet, and how he grasps it tightly to his chest. The family and friends that are left behind embrace the moments and our hearts are with theirs.

I vow to never forget those lost. These men and women deserve more than just recognizing them on 9/11. It just isn’t enough. Any loss of any Sheep Dog has to be remembered whenever the opportunity exists. I guess that’s why I’m carrying for them…because though I may not have known many of them, there are families still saddened with only a memory of them. I’m grateful for their courage and sacrifice.

Tomorrow we carry the load of not what’s on our back, but what weighs heavy in our hearts.”

So…who are YOU carrying?

#SDIA #sacrifice #carrytheload