University of Nebraska–Lincoln students and community members are preparing for the sixth annual The Things They Carry Ruck March, which will begin at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, Nov. 17.
The march, which is organized by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Student Veterans and University of Iowa Veterans Association organizations, is centered on raising awareness of the epidemic of veteran suicide. It also carries the game ball for the Husker-Hawkeye match-up on Nov. 26.
The ruck march is eight days long and covers 325 miles. Nebraska participants will meet up with the Iowa cohorts at Freedom Rock, near Menlo, Iowa, on Nov. 21. The Nebraska team will carry the game ball to Lincoln in five-hour morning and afternoon shifts.
Each five-hour shift covers approximately 20 miles, and those rucking also carry 20 pounds of personal belongings. The number 20 is significant, because it’s estimated that 20 veterans die by suicide each day.
Tyler Kluthe, a junior construction management major from Lincoln, is heading up Nebraska’s portion of the march. For the U.S. Marine Corps reservist, the ruck march is personal.
“It’s something that’s special to me, and it’s grown very near and dear to my heart,” Kluthe said. “I’ve done it for the past three years, and I’ve seen firsthand what we’ve been able to accomplish who we’ve been able to help.
“We’ve had people come up to us and tell us ‘hey, this helped a certain individual,’ or ‘this gives people hope,’ We’re a big military family in essence. No matter what branch we are in, no matter how much grief we give the other branches — at the end of the day, we’re still brothers and sisters. We’re in the cloth of our nation.”
The route has planned stops in communities along the way, and Kluthe said he is looking forward to visiting with the locals again. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the ruck march to a virtual event, where participants logged miles themselves in a friendly competition. Kluthe said participants on both sides of the event are excited to get back out on the road, walk with others and visit communities.
“Every town that we stop in is special because the towns all have had great supporters for us in the past,” Kluthe said. “We spend the night somewhere or at a business, and everyone usually just comes together.”
The game ball will finish its journey to Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25. On Nov. 26, prior to the final home football game of the season against Iowa, the ruck march will officially conclude with a ceremonial walk of the game ball from the Nebraska Union to Memorial Stadium.
Any person can sign up to march in the ruck. The group is also seeking monetary donations, which can be made here. Donations purchase fuel for the vehicle following the marchers, food, water, T-shirts and patches. Additional money is donated to veterans’ organizations in the community.
Kluthe said he and other student military members and veterans are thankful for the support they receive each year from the university and Lincoln community. It’s tantamount to completing their mission.
“We want to show individuals that they’re not alone in the battles that they might be fighting,” Kluthe said. “There are other people here that might be fighting the same battles, but they might have succeeded with winning those battles, and they can help you win your battles. We want to show support.”