Carry the Load relay passes through Aspen with aim to ‘restore the true meaning of Memorial Day’

Participants honored fallen military, first responders in walk from Aspen to Buttermilk

A small group of relay participants was walking with a purpose when it passed through Aspen on Tuesday evening for their 3,900-mile journey through the Great Plains and Mountain West.

Its goal: “To restore the true meaning of Memorial Day,” which is part of the mission of the annual Carry the Load national relay that includes five bus- and human-powered routes throughout the United States.

All of the relay participants from each route will convene in Texas for the flagship Dallas Memorial March on May 29-30, when marchers can walk the loop for 20 minutes or 20 hours.

“Memorial Day was, is and will always be about the fallen heroes,” said event organizer (and former Aspenite) Dill Driscoll, who helped create the national relay. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country, for their town.”

U.S. Navy SEAL veterans Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley co-founded the event in 2011 with the inaugural Dallas Memorial March, and it has since expanded to become a national event with thousands of participants spread across all routes and events.

The seeds of the idea started growing when Bruce strapped on a pack filled with weight (1 pound for every person he had lost) and began a road march to restore the meaning of Memorial Day, according to a “Founding Story” video posted on the Carry the Load website.

“Who are you carrying?” one veteran asked Bruce on his walk. The question drives the idea behind Carry the Load, and event organizers encourage all participants to consider it when they march.

These days, “Carry the Load” refers to a metaphorical load; not all participants carry heavy backpacks, but they all bear an emotional weight.

“You carry the fallen hero, you could be … you’re carrying … a guy or gal who’s down on his or her luck, or you’re carrying yourself sometimes, right?” Driscoll said. “But you’re carrying somebody your whole life. Think about it that way.”

The event also serves as a fundraiser for Carry the Load, which has grown from an annual march to a year-round organization focused on supporting education, awareness and the continuum of care programs for members of the military, veterans, first responders and their families.

The organization has raised nearly $33 million and counting since 2011, and around 93% of those funds go toward the programs that Carry the Load supports, according to the organization’s website. The remaining percent goes to administrative and fundraising costs.

The participants who came to Aspen on Tuesday walked from the fire station downtown to Buttermilk Ski Area for one leg of a lengthy journey that began in North Dakota in mid-May and passes through around 10 states en route to Texas by Memorial Day weekend.

They’ll pass through several more Colorado cities and towns this week before continuing on to Texas and Oklahoma. For more information about the relay and organization, visit


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