LEWISTOWN - Over Veteran's Day weekend, more than 30 teams across the United States and Canada are participating in the Carry The Fallen fundraiser march in honor of fallen military heroes.
Jeff Brytczuk, a former U.S. Marine from Lewistown, has put together a team of more than 30 veterans and civilians from Mifflin, Juniata, Clinton and Centre counties to march for a dedicated 22 miles on Nov. 10 around State College.
Each team member is encouraged to carry a rucksack of 22 pounds to symbolize, along with the 22 miles, the number of veterans who take their own lives on a daily basis.
Photo submitted by JEFF?BRYTCZUK
Jeff Brytczuk leads his team during GORUCK, a similar event to Carry the Fallen, in early October in State College. Both events serve to honor those who have fought, or continue to fight, for American freedom.
"We have had more veterans or active service members commit suicide than were killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," Brytczuk said. "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real, and under-treated, problem. These men and women who answered our country's call now have invisible wounds that may never
heal, and we as a country are failing them."
The money raised from this event goes toward the Active Heroes charity, which provides military families with financial assistance and active programs to combat the rising number of veteran suicides. Money raised at the State College event will specifically be used for the development of a family retreat for veterans.
While it costs no money to join a Carry the Fallen team, participants have been actively involved in fundraising efforts since August.
"I've been collecting donations through the charity page that has been set up by Active Heroes and sending the link to the page out via Facebook, e-mail and through GE's Veteran's Network," said John Prendergast, a veteran of the U.S. Army and member of the State College Carry the Fallen team.
So far, Prendergast's team has raised $2,970 out of the $10,000 they hope to raise by the end of the march. The 34 Carry the Fallen teams have raised $46,763 since August, only $8,237 away from the final goal.
Donations are accepted until 11 p.m. on Nov. 10 at www.fundraise.activeheroes.org/fundraise/team?ftid=25006. Those interested in joining the team can also do so by following the link or by contacting Brytczuk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Anyone interested can help honor our fallen military heroes and join Carry the Fallen," Brytczuk said. "People are free to join in and/or leave at any time. Twenty-two miles may be rough on novices, but we'll have plenty of young cadets and midshipmen to help keep spirits high."
The march starts at 8 a.m. at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, with a half-way point at the Michael Murphy memorial and ending at the museum. Participants should bring sturdy shoes, padded socks, a water bottle and snacks. These items can contribute to the 22 pounds carried.
"These men and women made the costliest, most ultimate sacrifice that anyone can make," Prendergast said. "For me, it steeled my resolve to try to earn their sacrifice every day - to make every day count. While we are rucking, I will be thinking of them, and how much they would have wanted to be with us. I will also be thinking of their families, who continue to feel their loss every day."
For more information about Active Heroes, visit activeheroes.org. For more information on the local march, visit the State College Carry the Fallen Facebook event page.