Any military veteran can tell you it takes a steel brush to clean the marks and stains off combat boots, and they never really look brand new again. It’s similar to the memories of one AT&T Veteran who has served three tours of duty since the age of 17. Combat has left an indelible mark on Hugh Meehan’s mind and heart.
They are changed forever.
“This race helps us to keep the perspective that we should never ever forget,” Hugh reflected. “We should always remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It makes me very proud—it is a heavy day."
Hugh was one of the many AT&T Veteran volunteers to join Carry the Load, a 2,000-mile trek across the United States. The goal is to honor those who have given their lives in the name of freedom. The relay began at West Point, New York, and will culminate in Dallas on Sunday. Although Hugh walked one leg of the race, the conversation and comradery along the three-hour walk was not simply memorable. He called it personal.
It was like good medicine for a war-torn spirit.
“This race helps us to keep the perspective that we should never ever forget,” he reflected. “We should always remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It makes me very proud—it is a heavy day.”
Hugh’s load carrying actually began long before this relay, when he enlisted at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York. He served in the Air Force four years and then transferred to the Army for the remainder of his service. He became an Air Force/Army MP and Army Airborne Ranger, and before long he found himself in Grenada and then Panama.
The tours of duty seem to blur together for Hugh, with only brief but cherished visits home. He’d fight in the first Gulf War in Iraq and then take a disability retirement from the Army in 1998. He was hurt during his last tour and saw many more friends severely injured.
Worse yet, he saw others lose their lives.
Hugh said he was carrying the load for two of those men. A sniper’s bullet cut down one of them during the first free election in Iraq. Hugh’s friend was standing guard while Iraqi’s stood in line to vote for the very first time. Hugh also carried for his platoon leader, who also lost his life in Iraq.
Through it all, Hugh says he wouldn’t change a thing about serving his country. He married his wife of more than two decades and became the father of three sons. Now teenagers, the oldest will be headed to college next year to study homeland security and enlist in a university army ROTC program. He also wants to serve his country. He’s 17 years old like his Dad when he enlisted.
“I’ll be constantly thinking of my sons during Carry the Load,” he said. “They really help to lighten the load.”
Hugh is currently a senior sales manager in Mobility, and has been with the company since 1999. He is also the national recruitment officer for AT&T Veterans.
Carry the Load’s mission is to see to it that the true meaning of Memorial Day is never lost.
Hugh says he’s proud to do his part.
Carry the Load was founded in 2011 by two former Navy SEALs. Its mission is to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering, honoring and celebrating the sacrifices made on our behalf by America's military, law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, as well as their families. Funds raised for Carry the Load are used to further increase the number of cities participating in its Memorial May activities, and are also gifted to nonprofit partners who support and benefit America's Military, First Responders and their families. For more information, go to CarryTheLoad.org.
This blog post originally appeared on the AT&T Consumer Blog.