Team Minuteman rucks to bring awareness
November 20, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (Nov. 20, 2013) -- On Nov. 10, Veterans Day weekend, about 200 people around the world, including Capt. Justin Fitch, the Headquarters Research Development Detachment commander, rucked for 12 hours to raise money and awareness for veterans and families who deal with PTSD and suicidal ideations and tendencies.
The campaign, "Carry the Fallen," is part of a larger organization, "Active Heroes." Fitch said the campaign allows for the offering of financial support, counseling and retreats for veterans in need.
On the morning of the ruck, well before the sun was up, a group of about 30 people gathered in Hopkinton with one goal in mind: ruck the Boston Marathon route to raise awareness.
"I assumed a leadership role in this; that's not what I intended, I just wanted to be a participant," said Fitch. "We had a lot of support from local people and friends and families of (those) ruck marching."
Fitch added that the group received a huge amount of support from the personnel at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
"We had NSRDEC team members that had set up refreshment stands along the way … driving back and forth to make sure everybody was medically OK," said 1st Sgt. Brian Gemmill, HRDD first sergeant.
Gemmill joined the ruck around the nine-mile mark to show his support.
"About a good 15 or 20 people volunteered their Sunday to help, make sure people had water, make sure people had enough cold-weather gear once it started cooling down," Gemmill said.
Gemmill also said that he didn't intend to ruck all the way to Boston.
"Actually, all I was going to do was walk through Natick, and I had my jeep loaded up with a bunch of water bottles and bananas," Gemmill said. "But I didn't realize that so many other people were driving and supporting, so I figured, 'I didn't have anything else to do, might as well hang out with Capt. Fitch and walk.'"
Fitch said everyone around him helped push him along.
One participant, a 14-year-old son of a retired Army Ranger, also gave Fitch inspiration.
"I honestly thought about quitting a couple times, but I looked at this kid and thought, 'This kid has got heart. There is no damn way I'm going to quit,'" Fitch said.
Fitch went on to say that the ruck was "definitely bigger than me, bigger than anyone there. We actually had strangers come up and start walking with us."
Gemmill added, "In Wayland, we had about five or six people that walked with us to the end of town."
Col. Collier Slade, military deputy of NSRDEC, said he was pleased with the team.
"As a senior officer, it gives me great hope for the future to see this younger generation, military and civilian, so motivated and so willing to endure such a physical, painful challenge for an important cause," said Slade. "I am proud of and inspired by Captain Fitch and the entire Minuteman Team."
After the ruck, Fitch, who is battling stage IV colon cancer, endured three straight days of chemotherapy. It was Fitch's 25th treatment.
"I will find out in two weeks if I can get a six-week break before I have to start it up again," he said.
Fitch remains hopeful that he can get some form of a breather in between treatments.
Because of the success of the campaign, "Active Heroes" is allowing "Carry the Fallen" to remain open until the end of the year. To find out how to get involved, visit http://bit.ly/1fGBxEQ.