Why I Ruck

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Patnaude
  • 104th Fighter Wing
Last year I endeavored upon a noble feat. To walk with military bearing, under a physical load, in the memory of a fallen Marine. It seemed easy enough, to walk straight forward with a ruck-sack on my back for up to eight hours. Seldom do we anticipate the finer details in life.

Lance Cpl. Walter K. O'Haire of Lynn, Massachusetts was KIA, May 9, 2007, in Fallujah Iraq. I was in the same platoon as Walter through Recruit Training, and the School of Infantry. We both served in 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. He in Golf Company, and myself in Fox Company. I can say with full honesty that I loved this man, and that is why I honor him.

On a beautifully crisp spring morning, three hundred soldiers and airmen began an epic journey. Travelling down the historic streets of Lexington and Concord, in the very footsteps of our beloved Minutemen, one can be filled with patriotic pride. In observance of the battles of Lexington and Concord, we celebrate Patriot's Day. The Tough Ruck is typically held on the grounds of the Boston Marathon. However, the marathon bombings have changed this event forever.

Enter the National Park Service, and the Trustees of Reservations.

These two entities gladly opened up the Old Manse, and the Battle Trail to this event. It was an experience I'll never forget. To see the sites of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the shot heard 'round the world, the Revolutionary era houses, and the British and Colonist graves randomly scattered about the grounds of Minuteman National Historic Park is amazing. Not to mention that it's Patriot's Day weekend, and the park is full of role players and visitors, it's quite the event.

The weight of the ruck places a constant burden on your economy of movement. The terrain varies from old city streets, dirt paths and marshlands, wooden planks, rolling hills, farms, and forested gravel paths, a drastic change from the asphalt streets of the Boston Marathon. Now it's your show and all eyes are on you, the modern Minuteman.

I choose to do things that those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, are no longer able to do. I endure the good times, the bad times, the pain, and the pleasures of being alive. Lance Cpl. O'Haire was a great Marine, and an even greater person, a short, bespectacled Irishman, from a very large family of natural and foster children. He would do everything for anyone in need.

With his father dying after a long fight with cancer, Walter wanted to make him proud. Walter's father died while we were in boot camp. He never saw his son become a United States Marine.

Walter, better known as "Gator" after his favorite childhood cartoon character, was a Boston Bulldog through and through; stubborn, morally straight, and always fighting the good fight.

I rucked with a yellow ribbon bearing his name. As I crossed the finish line, with throngs of supporters cheering me on, I couldn't help but feel emotionally overwhelmed, thankful that I was wearing sunglasses to hide my tears, not because I was mourning his loss, but because he has inspired me to act in his name. I successfully completed the Tough Ruck, but at a price. I had literally skinned my pinkie toes raw, and they still look different to this day.

This year I am rucking in memory of Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. I know the misery's of the Tough Ruck, and I look forward to experiencing them again. I hope to be joined by those that are motivated and inspired as I am to honor those that gave all.