Lincoln County residents walk 12 miles to Fort McPherson National Cemetery in observance of Memorial Day

For the past three years, Taylor McKeeman has led a group on a 12-mile military expedition known as a ruck.
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 5:57 PM CDT|Updated: May. 29, 2023 at 8:07 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Memorial Day is historically observed on the last Monday in the Month of May and reserved as an opportunity to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. Military. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, originated in the years following the Civil War. It officially became a federal holiday in 1971.

For the past three years, Taylor McKeeman has led a group on a 12-mile military expedition known as a ruck. The group journeys from rural Lincoln County to Fort McPherson National Cemetery to honor the fallen each Memorial Day.

“Throughout the history of the military, ruck marching and carrying a lot of weight has been a standard that people get tested on,” McKeeman said. “Throughout deployments and combat soldiers usually are required to carry extreme amounts of weight on their backs. We’re doing this today to honor the fallen for their service.”

McKeeman said that since beginning the annual march in 2021, the number of participants has grown each year.

“The first year we had about three people and last year we had about five and now it continues to grow as we have a bunch of people with us today and this is definitely a challenging thing to do but I don’t think there is a better way to honor the sacrifices of those that have served than to ruck out there and honor them,” McKeeman said.

The group of just under a dozen estimated it would take about three hours to reach Fort McPherson but McKeeman, who has been a member of the Nebraska National Guard out of Hastings for nearly 10 years, said he spends some of the time on the journey deep in thought.

“It does get you thinking because you just think about all the sacrifices people have made,” McKeeman said. “People have given their lives and really given two lives, the life they were living and the life they would have lived. It means a lot to me and everyone else out here doing this.”

McKeeman stressed that it was especially humbling to end the ruck at Fort McPherson National Cemetery.

“Fort McPherson is a beautiful place, they take care of it really, really well and they have an amazing service each Memorial Day,” McKeeman said. “There is so much history and stories behind all those headstones and I’m really glad we get to end by seeing all those heroes.”

McKeeman said that he and his colleagues plan to continue the ruck each Memorial Day as long as they are physically able.