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Carry the Load Across Arkansas for Memorial Day


Do you remember what you did last Memorial Day to commemorate the occasion? Many immediately think of a gathering for friends or family over hot dogs or barbecues. Others think about traveling for a family reunion or memorial experiences at a cemetery. Still, some will pause and remember a heartache for a friend or family member lost in a conflict of freedom.

This mixed bag of responses led Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley to found Carry the Load. Clint shares that after he came home from serving almost 10 years in Special Operations and losing several fellow soldiers, he was processing grief and loss and civilian life. His wife challenged him to do something about what he was feeling.

The default mode in military movement is the field march. So that year, Clint put on a backpack and filled it with 1 pound for every soldier and friend he lost on the field. He walked across his town with seeing eyes. He connected with a man who was a World War II vet, a hero to Clint. “A man who walked with purpose like he saved the world because that generation did!”

The two conversed and shared stories of combat and loss. The older veteran encouraged him in civilian life recovery. And, as they departed, he looked back and said, “Soldier, who are you carrying?”

That last question stuck with Clint and became the core message behind Carry the Load, a nationwide movement to reinvigorate the meaning of Memorial Day and redevelop patriotism.

Memorial May

Several events throughout May culminate in a large weekend celebration in Dallas. During the month, five relay legs will crisscross the nation by bus and on foot to bring visual awareness and engagement in local communities for Memorial Day.

Several portions of Arkansas may see runners or the Carry the Load bus as it sweeps through our state, May 20-23.

May 20
8:00 p.m. | Bus | West Memphis Fires Station 3 | 3581 E Broadway Street

May 21

  • 8:00 a.m. | Walk | Ben E. Keith Mid-South Distribution Center | 1 Ben E. Keith Way, North Little Rock | 3.28 mi.
  • 10:00 a.m. | Walk | City Market | 4109 E. Broadway Street, North Little Rock | 3.1 mi.
  • 11:30 a.m. | Walk | Wyndham Riverfront Little Rock | 2 Riverfront Place, Little Rock | 3.24 mi.
  • 2:00 p.m. | COMMUNITY RALLY | Little Rock National Cemetery | 2523 Springer Boulevard | 2.53 mi.
  • 3:30 p.m. | Walk | Little Rock Central Fire Station | 624 S Chester St., Little Rock | 4.97 mi.
  • 5:30 p.m. | Walk | Brady Elementary School | 7915 W Markham Street, Little Rock | 4.10 mi.
  • 8:00 p.m. | Bus | Little Rock Fire Department Station 14 | 8121 Colonel Glenn Road, Little Rock

May 22

  • 8:00 a.m. | Walk | Hot Springs Police Department | 641 Malvern Avenue | 4.61 mi.
  • 10:30 a.m. | COMMUNITY RALLY | La Quinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham | 4253 Central Avenue, Hot Springs
  • 12:00 p.m. | Walk | Cliff Harris Stadium, Ouachita Baptist University | 990 Carter Road, Arkadelphia | 2.71 mi.
  • 1:30 p.m. | Bus | Brookshire’s | 2750 Pine Street, Arkadelphia
    The bus will head to Bossier City overnight.

May 23

  • 8:00 a.m. | Walk | Hope Fire Department | 308 E. Second Street | 2.27 mi.
  • 9:00 a.m. | Bus | Walmart Supercenter | 2400 N Hervey Street, Hope
  • 10:30 | Walk | US Hwy 67 & State Hwy 108, Texarkana | 4.87 mi.
  • 12:30 p.m. | Miller Co. DHS | 3809 Airport Plaza, Texarkana | 3.21 mi.
  • 2:00 p.m. | Beech Street FBC | 601 Beech Street, Texarkana | 3.10 mi.
  • 4:30 p.m. | TAC | 701 Robison Road, Texarkana | 5.92 mi.
    The relay will continue through East Texas, ending the day at First Baptist Church Redwater, Texas.

The public may attend these events, cheer on relayers, or participate in the rally events at each destination. Ron Redding, an Arkansas ambassador for Carry the Load, shared, “It’s always encouraging to me when I’m running in these types of events to hear people cheering for you. I help you push through to your next stop, and it’s a representation of when you are over fighting in combat, and you know people back home are thinking about you and remembering your service.”

If one of these events does not go through your town, you can participate alone or with others and create a path to walk on Memorial Day. The camaraderie built through these experiences brings a sense of pride, and using the day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice is an incredible way to honor their sacrifice.

So, who are you carrying? 

Carrying the Load Year-Round

Carry the Load grew from a first-time event in Dallas in 2011 to adding its first nationwide relay leg in 2012 and another in 2016. Over time, three more routes connect most of the contiguous United States during the 25-day trek.

Carry the Load volunteers are also connected to Patriot Day programs at National Cemeteries, partnering with the Veterans Affairs Department to clean headstones at National Cemetery locations. For many, this annual tradition allows serving veteran families in multi-generational groups. The hands-on experience brings healing and connection.

Learn more about Patriot Day opportunities to serve and Veterans Day programs.

Carry the Load started to reinvigorate the remembrance aspect of Memorial Day, and the funds raised enabled them to invest in nonprofits that serve veterans and first responders.

The Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) group and the Carry the Load community are intertwined in Arkansas. SDIA is a national organization based in Northwest Arkansas that combines mental awareness, physical activity, and volunteerism to help veterans and first responders “get off the couch.”

SDIA expanded to the Heroes Ranch, where they mentor and train for the Warrior PATTH program, outdoor adventures, physical activities and comraderies programs. Retired Chief Master Sargeant Redding, Arkansas Ambassador for Carry the Load, will be among a group of men hiking Mount Kilimanjaro later this year, an annual trip in their Warrior PATTH. Through the training process and actual expedition, they continue to push themselves through healing and perseverance.

The stories are endless about the lessons learned and the shift that happens in each participant. These practical experiences keep the Carry the Load movement at full momentum, catching, healing, binding and bringing progress.

How can you participate?

Carry the Load

Partners in the Continuum of Care for Veterans and First Responders
Carry the Flag, an educational program for youth
Website | New England Route | Get Involved | Youth Program | 2023 Impact Report

FOLLOW: Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Listen to the Podcast | LinkedIn

Unless otherwise noted, images are used with permission from Sheep Dog Impact Assistance volunteers.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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