Nonprofit honoring fallen veterans and first responders makes its way through Lawrence as part of 20,000-mile national relay

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Local veterans stop to chat with volunteers with Carry The Load, a nonprofit honoring fallen veterans and first responders, and add their names to a banner signed by other veterans from across the country. The nonprofit passed through Lawrence Thursday as part of a 20,000-mile national relay culminating in Dallas on Memorial Day.

A nonprofit honoring fallen veterans and first responders rolled through Lawrence as part of a 20,000-mile national relay Thursday, just a few days before Memorial Day.

That nonprofit, Carry The Load, kicked off its 10th annual national relay in late April as a way to emphasize the meaning of Memorial Day. The 32-day relay spans five routes crossing 48 states and culminates at the Dallas Memorial March on Memorial Day.

A bus of Carry The Load volunteer team members made their way around Lawrence for a little less than 10 miles on foot throughout the morning, starting at Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical’s training facility at 1941 Haskell Ave., before setting off by bicycle to travel 26 miles to Topeka for the next leg of the relay.

The Carry The Load bus attracted the attention of local veterans, who stopped to chat with the relay team and sign a banner while the team was stationed in a parking lot on 23rd Street during the midpoint of their Lawrence leg.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Carry The Load’s buses helping to shuttle its relay teams across the country are easy to spot, and this one drew attention from local veterans as it made its way around Lawrence.

That’s also when Joe Meno, a Dallas police officer and relay team member, spoke to the Journal-World about walking across Lawrence and the country with Carry The Load. He and another volunteer had carried an American flag and a flag with the nonprofit’s logo along the way.

“We just got here, but lots of honks in support of the flag,” Meno said of his time walking through Lawrence. “A lot of people yelling, you know. (People) stop us to talk because they saw the flag.”

Meno, an Air Force and Navy veteran who served for 10 years, caught up with the team in St. Louis for the route passing through Lawrence. Meno said he’s been participating with Carry The Load for a number of years, usually during the rally in Dallas on the final day of the national relay. He’s a board member with the Assist the Officer Foundation, one of Carry The Load’s nonprofit partners, and was asked to join the relay portion as well.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Dallas police officer Joe Meno was part of the relay team walking through Lawrence Thursday. Meno is an Air Force and Navy veteran.

Meno said he’s carrying six officers he knew who have died in the line of duty, which provides further meaning to the nonprofit’s name. Meno wears a backpack with those officers’ patches attached.

Meno said relay team members also frequently place photos or other mementos of service members and first responders in their backpacks and carry them along, often after interacting with a local resident on one of the team’s stops across the country.

“(Another volunteer) who was with me today, every fire station he goes to, he asks them ‘Is there anyone that you want us to carry?'” Meno said. “And he’ll get a picture of them, and carries them along on his back.”

Members of the public also often participate as the relay team walks through their community, but Meno said turnout varied from place to place. The day prior to their time in Lawrence, the team was in nearby Kansas City, Missouri, and around 60 people showed up to join the next leg of their walk.

“It’s a great time to reflect on the people that we’ve lost in Dallas and the people that I know, and then to honor the fallen everywhere we go,” Meno said.


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