David "Mac" McCollum
LMU STUDENT AND WAR VETERAN ORGANIZES "RUCK TO REMEMBER" MARCH
February 8, 2012 - Harrogate, Tennessee — The 20 or so steps it takes for most Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) graduates to cross the stage in Tex Turner Arena at commencement can be the most significant steps to that point in their life. On May 5, 2012, when David “Mac” McCollum, crosses the stage, his steps will bridge a hero’s path to what comes next.
Just two days after crossing the stage at commencement, McCollum will embark on an over-500 trek from Knoxville to Washington, D.C. He is calling it a “Ruck to Remember.” A “ruck” refers to the pack a soldier carries and a “ruck march” is an organized foot march carrying a ruck. McCollum is hoping to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project and raise awareness for the organization during his walk.
A decorated Marine veteran, McCollum served two tours of duty in Iraq during his seven years of military service. He logged thousands of miles alongside fellow heroes and patriots in extreme conditions and under fire. Many of the soldiers he walked alongside never made it home or suffered traumatic and life-altering injuries. It is in honor of his fallen friends that he has mapped out his next path.
McCollum was inspired to do something after his best friend, Bradley Walker, lost both of his legs during his second deployment. “I really feel like I didn’t and can’t do enough for him,” McCollum said. “We were just kids. Just 23, 24-year-olds and his life has changed. It’s just the right time for me to step up and support all the wounded warriors, like Bradley.”
The idea initially grew out of camping and hiking trips with fellow veterans. “We would sit around the campfire and talk about our experiences. Inevitably the conversations would trail off as we remembered all of the guys we lost or who were injured. We decided we had to do something to honor them.”
McCollum and Chad Hale will start the “Ruck to Remember” from the Knoxville Veteran’s Memorial on Monday, May 7. Hale, a veteran who served six years with a deployment to Iraq and another to Afghanistan, will walk the first couple days with McCollum. Other veterans will join the walk periodically as McCollum will make his way to Arlington National Cemetery by Memorial Day, May 28. McCollum anticipates walking 25-30 miles per day.
In the months leading up to his graduation and the “Ruck to Remember,” McCollum will complete his studies, raise funds and gather supplies. He has established a website at www.rucktoremember.com, where donations can be made and his rout is outlined. McCollum hopes to gain support from the communities along his route throughout his journey. “I will need to notify local law enforcement in all of the counties I will travel through. Hopefully, they will be willing to provide water and other assistance,” he said. “I really hope that some schools and other community groups also come out and join the ruck as we pass through. It’d be great to have such far-reaching support.”
McCollum said Facebook and other social networking tools have played an integral role in keeping him connected to others who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. From his initial efforts to promote the “Ruck to Remember” he said he has reached over 1,000 people and gotten commitments from a handful of veterans to join the project.
When his journey is complete, McCollum said he plans to return to the area and begin his job search. He hopes to go back to work for the United States of America, this time for the federal government in an agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423-869-6280 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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