Sisters of fallen SEALs 'Carry the Load'

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by JIM DOUGLAS / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 8:25 AM

DALLAS — Jonas Kelsall and Rob Reeves were brothers in all but blood. They were childhood friends in Shreveport who went on to earn a place on Navy SEAL Team 6.

They died together in Afghanistan in August, 2011.

In a video at the service for Chief Petty Officer Reeves, mourners watched him grow from a little boy to a man.

Reeves and Lt. Cmdr. Kelsall were among 30 Americans — including 22 SEALs — who were killed when insurgents shot down their helicopter.

It remains the worst single loss of life in the Afghanistan war.

Reeves' sister, Emily, is comforted that her little brother and Lt. Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall had each other at the very end.

"It makes a huge difference to know he wasn't among strangers," she said. "He was among people who truly cared for him, and that he truly cared for."

In August 2011, Emily Reeves attended funeral after funeral after funeral.

"It's like, how much of this can you take as a person emotionally and physically, and know you're still trying to grieve for your own family member?" she asked.

Her lifelong friend, Kim Kelsall, knows exactly how she feels.

"I try to explain to people that grief takes up a lot of space inside in your mind and heart," she said.

On Memorial Day last year — 10 months after losing her brother — Kelsall drove from Austin to Dallas to walk for hours with former Navy SEAL Clint Bruce, who had started a non-profit called Carry the Load.

"Carry the load. You carry the person who can no longer be there because they lost their life," Kim Kelsall explained. "I carry my brother."

As they walked, Kelsall said Bruce talked of Jonas' courage and joy, and her load began to lighten.

"That... that makes me prideful," she said. "And pride takes up more space than grief. Those are the moments you can stop crying and smile, and think, 'Man, what an incredible human being.'"

Kim Kelsall believes that so strongly that she helped organize a Carry the Load walk in Austin this Memorial Day weekend.

Emily Reeves has become a Carry the Load Organizer in Arkansas. She's mobilizing marchers to take part in five-mile segments of a walking relay that started at West Point, and will end in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend.

"What we're going to do is turn Memorial Day into memorial month," Emily Reeves said. "We are going to walk in their honor and carry of little of their load with us."

Carry the Load has become a national movement. Up to 20,000 people are expected to participate in some way this year.

It's also raising large amounts of money for charities that directly benefit the families of fallen service members and first responders, including police and firefighters.

Emily Reeves and Kim Kelsall don't expect everyone to spend the holiday walking... just thinking about fellow Americans like Rob Reeves and Jonas Kelsall.

Two kids who grew up and carried the load for the rest of us.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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