[We’re talking about the military ruck here, not crowded group or people or a wrinkle in fabric.]
The last Monday of May can be a heavy one for those in the military community. It is a weekend of reflection, honor and remembrance. And while the annual ruck by the Freedom Ruck team historically took place in January, a pandemic shift made the organization’s first post-COVID ruck even more special.
Freedom Ruck was founded by Vic Wise in 2014. It started from a conversation with a friend who returned from a deployment that left Wise wanting to give back to the military community. It turns out Wise didn’t have to look far to find inspiration.
“I started to get inspiration from a workout group I was in that met at the Virginia War Memorial,” Wise said. “The sun rise over the river was beautiful, and it seemed like a really cool place to start something.”
Wise envisioned a “ruck” (hiking, walking or running with a ruck sack on your back) starting at the war memorial and working up to Arlington National Cemetery.
“I began to wonder if anyone has done it, and maybe if I do something a little crazy, it might garner attention,” Wise added.
Wise planned a 48-hour, 106-mile ruck, and Freedom Ruck was born. His goal was to create a conversation starter and build awareness about celebrating and honoring our military. Thanks to family and friend support, the first ruck took place in January 2014.
“The message of Freedom Ruck is really meant to be an inspiration to folks in – and out – of the military community to say thank you however they see fit,” Wise said. “Fundraising has never been the primary goal. We want everyone to decide their own path for giving back, whether it’s a flag in the front yard, buying a drink at the bar for a military service member or saying thank you in the airport.”
The ruck was put on hold during the pandemic but returns this year to a warmer weather weekend – and one that is near and dear to the military. This year’s ruck will depart from the Virginia War Memorial with a team of five on Friday, May 27 at 10 a.m., and they’ll head north on Route 1. As the team rucks through Richmond, Ashland, Fredericksburg and beyond, they anticipate families and loved ones stopping with signs to cheer them on, food and sustenance to keep them going and the occasional police escort to keep them safe.
“This year I pulled back the group size because it’s a busy weekend on the road and we’re worried about safety,” Wise said. “Route 1 isn’t the safest route, but it is the most direct route where walkers are permitted. We have police escorts to help keep us safe on the road, counties offering support vehicles. It’s a great community of people that has come together on this.”
If you find yourself on Route 1 over the Memorial Day weekend, and you see a group rucking with the United States flag on their back, don’t be afraid to give a honk or a holler, but know what they’re looking to do at the end of the day.
“Our goal is providing that support and that message of thankfulness on a weekend that’s really important to recognize the sacrifice of so many,” Wise said.
If you’re interested in learning more about Freedom Ruck, visit its website or following along the team’s ruck journey by watching its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages on Memorial Day weekend. You can also donate through Freedom Ruck to the Navy Seal Foundation here.