GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the sun sets on a long, but productive day, Jeremiah Kincaid takes time to reflect as he hangs out at the fire station at Burton Street in Grand Rapids. The names on his backpack tell the story.
Kincaid is walking for Air Force First Lieutenant Murel Hardgrave, Marine Private First Class Hubert Bardwell, Navy Hospitalman Richard Sutherland, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Jacob Lannigan. Kincaid served with Lannigan at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The other three were all family members of Kincaid's who had died in service.
"Carrying family members of mine means a lot, because had it not been for doing family research, I would have never even known about them." Kincaid said.
"We essentially forgot about them in my own family."
Kincaid and a number of other volunteers for an organization called "Carry The Load" want to make sure that those who made a sacrifice for our country are never forgotten again. That's why they're walking across the country carrying backpacks with the names of heroes on them, and carrying American flags.
"We forget the sacrifices that those soldiers make when they're overseas -- the ultimate sacrifice of passing, but also the sacrifices that they make, when they come back home. They have a lot of issues that they have to deal with," said Hunter Lovelace who is walking his first relay.
"Our first responders, as well. There's a lot of things that people don't see, or don't understand what really goes into being a first responder and a soldier."
The organization's Midwest Relay started in Minneapolis and will end in Dallas. Each team walks two hours before passing walking duties off to another team.
Lovelace was part of a two-man team walking from the Burton Street fire station to the Cascade Township Fire Department. It was the last leg of a day spent walking in West Michigan that passed through Portage, Kalamazoo, Grandville, Walker, Grand Rapids, and Cascade.
"With me not being a first responder or a soldier, this is my way of giving back and showing my sacrifice to them," Lovelace said.
Two Navy SEALS started Carry the Load in Dallas back in 2011. Their goal was to restore what they call the true meaning of Memorial Day. Since then, the event has grown. This year is the first year the event has included a New England route.
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