A group of policing students from Georgian’s Orillia Campus is taking part in Ruck to Remember, a seven-day 300-kilometre trek from Hamilton to Parry Sound. The event will raise money to build a retreat in Northern Ontario for veterans and first responders struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Rucking is walking a distance with a weighted pack on one’s back – in this case the weights are 50 pounds of bricks, each engraved with the names of 158 fallen Canadian soldiers.
It’s a pretty simple concept that carries a lot of meaning, says Keith Dow, one of the students participating.
“Rucking beats the body up pretty bad,” he says. “Thankfully we don’t have to do it every day, but our troops do. The ruck is a sober reminder that those fighting for our freedom and our country carry that weight for us.”
Each team member has a personal connection to the cause.
Dow, who is originally from the United States, joined the army at 21. His five-year active duty contract included an assignment in Iraq where he saw first-hand how soldiers are affected by war.
Fellow students Rob Mullins, Jon Aldworth, Matt Evans and Micael Lamontagne say that raising awareness and showing support for our Canadian heroes is at the top of a long list of reasons they’re participating in the ruck.
“This goes beyond civic duty,” says Mullins, who was deployed to Afghanistan with the Canadian military. “We all enjoy a uniquely Canadian lifestyle. It’s a freedom defended by those on the front lines, and some of us have known fallen soldiers personally.”
The group has been preparing for the arduous multi-day journey by hiking with weighted packs and doing ruck-specific exercises. They estimate they will burn about 5,000 calories a day during the trek. Each leg of the ruck, which kicks off in Hamilton July 20, will start before dawn and end two hours after sunset. It wraps up in Parry Sound on July 28.
The bricks from their packs will be used to create a memorial at the retreat site. One of the bricks is etched with the name Kevin McKay, a Georgian graduate who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010.