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Austinites 'Carry the Load' to honor fallen military members, first responders

"Being able to take something so terrible and being able to make it an amazing moment and seeing it work here in my community is awesome."

AUSTIN, Texas — As you begin getting your Memorial Day Weekend plans sorted out, remember: it's more than a holiday or three-day break from work. 

Memorial Day is about remembering the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our lives. 

On Wednesday morning, dozens of people gathered in Zilker Park to walk two miles across Downtown Austin to Republic Square as the "Carry the Load" Memorial May event traveled through the Capital City. 

Carry the Load is a nonprofit dedicated to providing active, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by our nation’s military, veterans, first responders and their families. 

The group was founded in 2011 by two veteran Navy SEALS who started it as a 20-hour and 11-minute memorial march in Dallas. 

RELATED: LIST: Memorial Day weekend events in the Austin area

It's grown every year since. This year's event began in Seattle and will end in Dallas. 

The Austin leg of Carry the Load was organized by JPMorgan Chase & Co. 

One of the groups hosted by JPMorgan was the local chapter of the Travis Manion Foundation (TMF), which is one of the organizations that Carry the Load partners with to help veterans and families of the fallen. Monica Velez is the leader of the local TMF chapter and a Gold Star sister to Cpl. Jose Velez and Specialist Andrew Velez of Lubbock. 

Cpl. Velez was killed in 2004 in Iraq. Specialist Velez died in Afghanistan in 2006. 

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"It's important to me because this is exactly how I want to honor my family, with service so...it's a blessing and a burden. Being able to take something so terrible and being able to make it an amazing moment and seeing it work here in my community is awesome," Velez said. "These [Carry the Load participants] are professional bikers, runners, swimmers that will come out and walk legs in honor of our fallen heroes reminding those in our community that is about the fallen."  

World War II Navy Veteran Joe Barger, 93, also attended Wednesday's walk.

"We are celebrating all the veterans that couldn't make it here. We represent them," Barger said. "Keep in mind the people who sacrificed their life for Memorial Day."

From Austin, those walking with Carry the Load will continue their trek to Dallas for a special Memorial Day ceremony. 

To learn more about JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s mission and call to "Carry the Load," click here.

To learn more about the local chapter of the Travis Manion Foundation and how to get involved, click here.

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