The Collin College Carry The Load team gathers with Carry The Load Co-founder Clint Bruce for a picture at the event. Back L-R: Sean D. Cummings (Team Captain, Treasurer, Historian), Eric McCrory (Public Relations – VP of Communication), Beau Uran (Chapter President). Front L-R: Texas Woman’s University student Shantell Jones Godboldo, Nikki Perez (VP of Community Outreach), Bruce, Kenneth Munyer (SALUTE Coordinator), Tyler Rawlinson (VP of Coordination) and Collin student Kathleen Cummings.

Celebrating Those Who Have Fallen While Serving
Kenny Munyer felt the pervasive weight of mourning as a participant in the non-profit Memorial Day Carry The Load event. It was somber and quiet as he walked the trail and looked at photo after photo of men and women who died in service—police officers, first responders and soldiers. Along the path, he saw random acts of kindness, like the man who meticulously adjusted each flag that was not in perfect alignment, a living metaphor of putting things right in the world again.

“People are naturally selfish, and I go through that as well, but when you are walking this path and seeing all these people in posters on the trail who gave up their lives to keep us safe, you realize you are alive, and you are blessed. It was mourning coupled with reflection and the existential realization of mortality. I am glad I went because it grounded me in the whole grand scheme of things. Life is more than my jobs and my grades. I would definitely do it again because it is an act of selflessness, and I am giving my time to remember. Regardless of anyone’s views of government and the military, people are still dying, and this is a way to become more aware of it,” said Munyer, a Collin College student.

With rallies across the country, Carry The Load is a Dallas-based event for those who have died in the line of duty. According to Meredith Martin, interim associate dean of academic affairs, the Collin College Carry The Load team raised approximately $1,400 from those who pledged funds for the walk.

Munyer plans to earn a bachelor of science degree in ecology or environmental science. He served in the Marines for five years. Currently, he is in inactive ready reserves as a Sgt. in aviation ground support. He says he walked Carry The Load because he received an email about the event from the college’s Student Veterans Association (SVA), and his roommate, a Sgt. in the Marines, was excited about it.

“My roommate lost his friends in combat. In the whole Marine Corps, suicide kept happening to people in my unit or surrounding units. I have a friend who hung himself, and his roommate broke down the door and saved him. When I got to the Carry The Load event I had my 35-pound backpack and the wrong boots. I was in pain, but that’s part of the point. I am alive, so I can feel this pain. I walked to celebrate the lives of the Marines I knew who aren’t here anymore and what they gave to this country and to our world. I did it to pay my respects and celebrate their lives.”

A Lesson to Remember Throughout the Year
According to Collin graduate Sean Cummings, each individual participating in Carry The Load selects who they want to carry, and some people, like Munyer, carry entire lists. Cummings carried Airman First Class Elizabeth Jacobson.

“Everybody is there for somebody else. ­­I learned about her in military training. It was a reminder to us to take stock and be vigilant. She was the first woman security forces person to die in combat since Vietnam, so it was close to home for me because I was going into a career field in the Air Force that had the majority of combat-related deaths. She was on a convoy, and they hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Several were wounded, but she was that fatality,” he said.

Collin College captain for Carry The Load, Sean Cummings graduated from Collin with an associate of arts degree in May 2016. Currently working in the Veteran Services Office (VSO) at the college, he is enrolled at Texas A&M University-Commerce and taking classes at the Collin Higher Education Center. He is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree and plans to earn a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

Cummings joined the Air Force at 18 and was medically retired in 2010. A Security Forces member, similar to the Army’s military police, he was in the law enforcement branch of the Air Force. At Collin, he served as the treasurer and historian of the SVA.

Cummings said seeing the photos of those who lost their lives in the line of service to others, flanked by flags along the path, coupled with heartfelt conversations was a very moving experience.

“It is very humbling. Everyone was respectful of all of the lives that we walked. I was also encouraged because I would imagine some of the people in the photographs. I would think this is hard, but maybe this person was a Prisoner of War (POW) and he or she lasted longer than this hike will. It put my aches and pains into perspective—they are so small compared to those who served overseas or first responders’ daily lives. I encourage anybody that can make it out to at least see the displays to do this and find perspective,” he said.