Up North: Deployed Soldiers Step off with Northlanders in Virtual Ruck March

Alicia Tipcke
Updated: April 01, 2020 11:15 PM

In the past, Duluth's Nearly Naked Ruck March served as both a morale raiser and a fundraiser. However, this year the large gathering was canceled to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Organizers refused to let COVID-19 ruin their cause, so they made it virtual. 

At 11 am Saturday Northlanders stepped off in the Nearly Naked Ruck March on various isolated paths. Put on by 23rd Veteran, people turned to Facebook Live for the fifth annual event

"I was not expecting it [coronavirus] to last this long and I think it's a good bounce back from that. To say, hey let's do this virtual, people can at least do it in their own time," said Duluth native Sergeant Garret Rombal of the U.S. Army.

"We were planning on having a whole bunch of people together at Skyline Boulevard, but instead we've opened it up to the entire world," said Mike Waldron, the executive director of 23rd Veteran.

One group of marchers joined the cause from over 6,000 miles away, far exceeding the CDC's recommendation of staying at least six feet apart during the pandemic.

Stationed in Iraq, Duluth's Garret Rombal led soldiers in the 10 mile journey. Months ago Romabl wanted to raise morale in deployed troops so he reached out to Mike Waldron, the creator of the fundraiser, about bringing the ruck march overseas.

"The ruck march is one of the things that we look forward to the most just because there's so much positivity. There's so much energy and just a whole bunch of people getting together all for a good cause, to support 23rd Veteran in that 14 week program [helping] veterans living with trauma," said Waldron.

Military personnel and civilians rucked to raise money and awareness for local veterans battling PTSD.

"In light of recent events around the world we have to make due with what we have and in this case working this virtually is going to be at least working the awareness aspect of it because the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing there is one," said Romabl during the Facebook Live event.

Waldron added that some people contributed more than money to the cause, donating the 20-50 pounds of food or clothes they used to fill their backpacks to local food shelves.


Alicia Tipcke

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