GoRuck Tough for Mashable.com

Most people celebrated Memorial Day by lighting up the barbecue and enjoying an extra day off. But on this Memorial Day, I got to follow — or rather, run — alongside a group of 28 men and one woman who paid their respects to fallen soldiers with a small sacrifice of their own. They chose to put themselves through a series of physically and emotionally demanding tasks, each of them in the name of a soldier killed in battle.

The night begins at the meeting point, Joe Moakley Park, as the group does a series of ‘mountain climbers.’
The group was instructed to remove their shoes and socks before embarking on the journey. They remained barefoot for the first few hours.
The night begins at the meeting point, Joe Moakley Park, as the group does a series of ‘mountain climbers.’
Participants lined up at the beach before they were told to crabwalk into the dark, cold water.
Setting down to plan a route to the next destination.

Some would call them dedicated. Others might call them committed.

Still others might just call them crazy, but over the course of 12 grueling hours starting at 9 p.m. on an unusually cold evening, these 29 individuals added themselves to a small but growing group of men and women to complete a GORUCK, a series of mentally and physically draining tasks that would be done barefoot. They would carry backpacks loaded with bricks — in many cases up to 30 pounds — and under no circumstance would they be allowed to set down their backpacks during the event.

The group met at Joe Moakley Park in Boston and were introduced to their “cadre”, the man who would lead and push them over the next 12 hours. The cadre, who earned the title of sergeant in the armed forces, was a self-proclaimed countryboy and gave the option to be called by several names, none of which were “sir.”

A person in the group made the mistake of calling him “sir,” and within seconds, the group was on hands and knees, bear crawling through a field. The word was definitely off the table.

Before the group headed off, the cadre made everyone take off their shoes and socks and empty their bags of any food. All 12 hours would be completed without taking in a single calorie — the only thing allowed was water — and the first few miles of the event would be spent totally barefoot.

The group was instructed to build an apparatus that would suspend four weighted buckets on a track using the materials provided. The entire setup weighed about 500 pounds.

So … why? What’s the point?

Many of the friends and families of participants couldn’t understand the reasoning behind leaving a comfortable home on Memorial Day weekend, on an extra day off of work, to undergo grueling tasks.

Air Force Major David L. Brodeur died April 27, 2011, at Kabul Airport. Eight American service members and a contractor were shot and killed by an Afghan military officer while attending a meeting of foreign and Afghan officers. He is survived by his wife, Susan, and two children, Elizabeth and David Jr.
A1C Zachary Ryan Cuddeback died March 2, 2011. He was stationed with the Air Force in Frankfurt, Germany, when an Islamic extremist walked onto a bus during a routine airport pickup of new recruits. The extremist opened fire, killing Cuddeback, 21, and another airman before his gun jammed and he was arrested.
Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Vitagliano, died Jan. 17, 2015. Vitagliano, who was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regimen, 2nd Infantry Division, was killed when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his position in Ramadi, Iraq.
Lance Corporal Lawrence R. Philippon died May 8, 2005, from enemy small-arms fire while conducting combat operations in the vicinity of Al Qa’im, Iraq. The 22-year-old Pilipon is survived by his fiancee, Olicia Lawrence.

“My buddy and I signed up for this event before we even knew it was going to have this kind of a focus on recognizing the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Neil Andrito, one of the participants. “But in preparing for this event I have a whole new appreciation for the men and women who serve our country.” The Goruck.com website boasts a mission of “Building Better Americans.”

As the sun rose in Boston on Monday, the small group reflected on the power and spirit of Boston Strong through the heroic acts of those who gave their lives to protect their country.