Group travels US to honor those who ‘protect and serve’

 

Members of the “Carry the Load” team take a break at Smith’s Bait Shop on Del. 9 in Leipsic on Friday morning. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

LEIPSIC — Steven Smith opened his bait shop a bit early Friday.

The longtime business owner didn’t want to miss a special arrival.

A few minutes after 7 a.m., a tour bus pulled into Smith’s Bait Shop on Del. 9 as planned.

On board were members of the Carry the Load team paying tribute those who “protect and serve.”

Walking in five-mile segments with an American flag during stops from West Point, N.Y., to Dallas, Texas, the group aims to draw attention to their heroes — military personnel, police officers, firefighters and first responders.

A nine-member contingent of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College students from Tifton, Georgia, and support staff planned to veer west toward Delaware International Speedway in Dover before heading toward Maryland.

If weather allows today, they’ll canoe across the Chesapeake Bay to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, then visit Arlington National Cemetery for active military personnel, veterans and families in Virginia on Sunday.

The Carry the Load visitors acknowledged the gravity of Friday’s services for late Delaware State Police Trooper Cpl. Stephen Ballard, shot to death on April 26 while responding to a suspicious vehicle at a Wawa in Bear.

“We got a sense of it last night,” said Jason Santos, a paramedic traveling with the group. He noted the serious side of what law enforcement officers face each and every day while protecting and serving the public.”

“It’s a reminder of why we’re out here — to recognize those heroes.”

Wilmington Police Department provided an escort through its city last night around midnight.

Mr. Smith didn’t hesitate in providing a rest stop when contacted by Carry the Load a couple weeks ago.

“I believe in what they’re doing; it’s a nice cause,” he said. “With everything going on in Delaware lately and what the families are experiencing, I just feel for them.

“It’s pretty unique that they would come to the little town of Leipsic at a time like this and support law enforcement here.”

Kind of like home

Trekking through Delaware was a little bit like home, ABAC junior Mitchell Sheffield said. He and the others were undeterred by the rain and wind that descended on the First State during their transitory stay.

“Of all the places we’ve been so far, Delaware reminds us the most of where we come from,” he said.

“It’s kind of like the Georgia coast, and there’s all the flat ground and marshland.”

According to ABAC junior Dustin Thomas, “It’s nice to get out of the city.”

The team will traverse through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas before concluding the 2,100-mile adventure in Dallas at a march on Memorial Day weekend.

Previous stops included the West Point cemetery, 9/11 Memorial and reflecting pools, Freedom Tower and Rescue 5 fire station in New York City, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. A visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., is scheduled.

Carry the Load’s goals include:

• To raise awareness of those who sacrifice for us daily by providing Americans an active way to remember, honor and celebrate them.

• To raise funds to be distributed to non-profit partners who provide direct services to our nation’s heroes and their families.

• To educate our youth on the history of our American flag and the sacrifices made to honor it.

More information on the organization is online at carrytheload.org.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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