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'This is service before self' | Veterans, first responders 'Carry the Load' across America

A group walking to remember our fallen heroes trekked through Louisville this week. Their mission is to remind us all what Memorial Day is truly about.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — He carried the American Flag and a book bag full of names of those who are no longer here to join in on the cause.

"When my knee gets sore, or when we're walking our ninth or tenth mile for the day, we think about all the names we're carrying and suddenly, all our problems don't seem so bad," Eric Ellis said.

Ellis is a paramedic from Wisconsin who, for the last 8 years, has volunteered with the organization Carry the Load to honor military veterans and first responders who've paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"Carry the Load started in 2011, with two veteran Navy Seals, who decided America had lost its connection with Memorial Day. Remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice," Doug Bruce, a relay manager said.

They've walked the east coast and the west and, for the first time, they're on a new route taking them right through the middle, starting in Minneapolis.

"We made our way through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Chicago, Michigan, Detroit, all the way through Ohio and West Virginia, and now into Kentucky," Bruce said.

The group walked through Covington and by Thursday, they were in Louisville, looking ahead to a 40-mile trek before they hit Indiana.

"We're covering 3,900 miles with a team of about 7 people. The flag is moving anywhere from 18 to 24 hours a day," Bruce said.

Each city brings different numbers of supporters.

"There are days that are harder than others. Some days, we're walking in the rain, alone, and other days we have 600 people join us and there's an escort with police, almost like a parade. But it's important to know this is service before self," Bruce said.

"We get a lot of strange looks as we're walking through town with a flag, but those who take the time to stop and talk to us, they're always very grateful. Sometimes they donate, but they always shake our hand and wish us the best," Ellis said.

The walk recognizes our local heroes and the support groups who serve them every day of the year, reminding everyone what Memorial Day is really about.

"Barbecues and days off work are great. Enjoy the time with your family but just remember those who can't," Ellis said.

The group will be in Indianapolis Friday for anyone wanting to join them. Carry the Load will end in Dallas for the Memorial Day March.

To check in where they are along their route, click here.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch at bhasch@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Hasch) and Facebook.   

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