DOVER — For most, Memorial Day means that summer is finally on the horizon, with pools opening, a three-day weekend and consistently warmer weather.
For David Lindsey, East Coast manager of Carry the Load, Memorial Day is for memories and honoring those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“When you’ve got guys that are killed in action in the military and guys from the police or fire department that are killed on the line of duty, there’s always two deaths there. One of them is the day they actually die. The second one is when we stop talking about them,” Mr. Lindsey said. “We don’t ever want that to happen.”
To preserve the meaning of Memorial Day each year, Carry the Load — a nonprofit founded in 2011 by former U.S. Navy Seals Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley — hosts its “National Relay” to raise money for active-duty military, veterans and first responders, as well as their families.
“People were taking it as more of a cookout or party, and (the founders of Carry the Load) wanted to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day,” said Emalee Green, media coordinator and team member for the East Coast relay.
Ms. Green said the founders of the organization began by walking for fallen soldiers, when someone passed them on the street and asked them what they were carrying.
“So that’s where we got our motto from — ‘What are you carrying?’” Ms. Green said.
From that start, Carry the Load evolved to support other small nonprofits through its fundraising events and the National Relay.
Ms. Green said there are four routes participants can take, with this region being part of the East Coast option. All walkers end up in Dallas on Memorial Day.
For the East Coast leg of the National Relay, participants began their journey April 29 in West Point, New York. Ms. Green said there also are city rallies and other fundraising efforts, like a Carry the Flag event for youths. The National Relay also is open to those who would like to participate virtually.
Several East Coast walkers passed through Kent County on Friday. They began their day at 7 a.m. at the Clayton Fire Co., before making stops at the Food Lion in Smyrna and at five locations in Dover, including the Dover Fire Department and Victory Church. Their day ended at Hartly Volunteer Fire Co.
All walkers carry a name of a loved one or friend on their backs as they walk. Friday, the local participants honored the late Delmar Police Cpl. Keith Heacook, who died in the line of duty after a physical altercation last week.
Each person has an assigned leg of the journey to walk. Ms. Green said she usually walks between 10 to 15 miles per day.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the event, organizers said there is still community interest when people see the walkers.
“In the past, when we’ve been in New York, there have been thousands that have come out,” Ms. Green said. “Our goal is obviously to raise awareness, but a lot of people know about us, which is great. If they don’t, they come to us, and we tell them about the nonprofit, and they go and spread the word.”
Mr. Lindsey, a veteran firefighter who retired last March after 38 years, became involved with Carry the Load through the Krodle Foundation, a nonprofit he helped form in honor of his cousin, firefighter Todd W. Krodle. In 2011, Mr. Krodle lost his life on the job after falling through the roof of a burning building in Dallas.
The foundation honors his legacy with scholarships to children of Dallas firefighters, in addition to financial assistance for families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty and firefighters injured on the job.
Mr. Lindsey said the Krodle Foundation was formed as a way to “vent their grief.” The initial event saw friends and family walk for miles in firefighter gear before deciding to create the foundation in their friend’s honor.
“We were shown so much love during the week of his funeral (that) we said, ‘Let’s do that for other guys that died in the line of duty,’” Mr. Lindsey said.
The Krodle Foundation has been supported under the umbrella of Carry the Load for eight years now, he said.
“We couldn’t have done anything better ourselves,” he said, adding that Carry the Load has grown to support 40 other nonprofits.
Carry the Load’s fundraising supports recovery services like counseling, adaptive training, suicide prevention, job placements and home improvement, among other services.
“It’s not about the money. It’s not about walking that flag down the road,” Mr. Lindsey said. “It’s about talking to those families and assuring them (that) we’re never going to forget their loved ones.”