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Montana couple honors veterans in Carry the Load

Posted at 7:08 AM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 09:16:48-04

LAUREL — Carry the Load is a series of walks to honor and remember veterans who have died for America.

The event was scheduled to come through Montana last week, but because of COVID-19, it is on social media this year.

Nine years ago, two U.S. Navy Seals started Carry the Load, a program designed to honor fallen veterans on Memorial Day. Since its inception, the walk has grown from a march in Dallas to a march across the country.

A Laurel couple decided to do more than the virtual this year.

"We did the memorial walk to carry the load for men and women in the military who have died in the past for us," said Charlene Saunders. "We don't want to forget them. We want to remember and we want to honor them always."

Saunders and her husband Ed walked the two miles from the Laurel Firefighters Memorial to the Yellowstone National Cemetery. Thursday would have been the day for a stop in Laurel on the Mountain states route.

"My dad was a waste gunner in the Navy," Charlene said about who she is carrying on the walk. "My brother was on a destroyer, U.S.S. King."

"Dad, Uncle Darrol, cousin Maurice and so forth.," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. (retired) Ed Saunders about the family military members he honored.

They will not be able to have the normal Memorial Day ceremony at Yellowstone National Cemetery. But for the Saunders the walk was special.

"You had a name of a person that you loved, in our case, family members," Ed Saudners said.

"It's personal," said Charlene Saunders. "It's heartfelt, it brings tears every year even though they've been gone for a long time."

One section of the walk has a hill. "Quite a hill there, Charlene Saudners said. "But it kind of reminds you a touch of what they did for us. You've got to go up that hill."

"As you're trying to scale that hill, maybe, just maybe it gives you a better awareness of the struggle that all Americans in uniform who have died for us have gone through," Ed Saunders said.

"You remember them, and you honor them and you never forget them," Charlene said.

"Memorial Day, it's there to honor America's military men and women who have died in service," Ed said. "I would hope that on Memorial Day that all Americans would just reflect upon that."

The four routes on Carry the Load finish on Memorial Day for the Memorial Drive on Dallas.

Carry the Load has raised more than $25 million in nine years with 93.3% of that money going towards their three programs - awareness, continuum of care, and education.

More information is available on the Carry the Load website.