Ryan Davis got word last month that another one of his fellow soldiers had died. Since Davis returned from Afghanistan in early 2013, nine of the men he personally knew and served alongside have been …
Ryan Davis got word last month that another one of his fellow soldiers had died. Since Davis returned from Afghanistan in early 2013, nine of the men he personally knew and served alongside have been lost to accidents, crime and, mostly, suicide.
“We’ve lost a lot of vets in combat,” Davis said, “but we’ve lost a lot more since we’ve came home.”
Sean Alquist, a fellow Army veteran who works with Davis on the Powell Police Department, has also experienced losses since leaving the military, losing one friend to suicide and another to a murder two years ago.
“Memorial Day, it’s just a different meaning,” Alquist said.
So, as this year’s holiday approached, the two men talked about a way they could honor and remember their fallen colleagues. They ultimately decided to undertake what’s known in the Army as a ruck, or weighted march. After completing their patrol shifts Monday afternoon, Davis and Alquist set out on a 12-mile trek. They carried 45-pound packs — and the names of their fallen brothers-in-arms.
Despite making and publicizing their plans at the last minute, Alquist and Davis were joined by 10 other veterans, coworkers and community members, plus two others in vehicles and an ambulance crew from Powell Valley Healthcare that volunteered to follow along and help control traffic.
Over the course of more than three-and-a-half hours — from roughly 3:30-7 p.m. — the group traveled from the veterans’ memorial on Powell’s west edge to the Briess receiving station outside of Ralston and back. Fittingly, they marched alongside U.S. 14-A, which is formally known as the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Highway as it stretches from Powell to Cody.
“There’s many, many times during the walk where you’re like, ‘OK, this is it. I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore,’” Davis said. “But ... I think that is the whole point — is to get to that point of experience, where you’re kind of pushing yourself through what’s uncomfortable, and that helps memorialize those that paid the ultimate sacrifice and the discomfort that they went through and their families and their friends.”
Davis carried the names of fallen Army veterans David Drake (who was killed in action), Lakota Brightman, David Chavez, Roland Rhodes, Brandon Morey, Anthony SanFillipo, Anthony Ward, James Arsenault, James Benson and Joshua Delgado. Alquist honored Philip T. Diaz and Derek G. Garcia, who each died in 2019.
“Anytime you start feeling like you’re hurting and that kind of thing, I’ve got a bracelet with my buddies’ names on it — [and] they can’t do this kind of thing anymore,” Alquist said. “So [that] makes it a little bit easier.”
Saying the fallen veterans’ names, he added, “keeps them with us.”
Alquist and Davis hope to make the ruck an annual Memorial Day event for Powell, particularly after receiving a strong community response. Passersby offered honks and thumbs up and, although they were turned down, some people offered donations.
Davis was pleased with how many people joined the march, too, “because they’re taking time out of their day to participate in something that honors people that have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.”
With more planning ahead of Memorial Day 2022, the men want to explore the possibility of making the event a fundraiser for Gold Star families or veterans in need and potentially expand the scope. Anyone is invited to participate, though Alquist said the message is not that it’s necessary to go out and take on a ruck to celebrate Memorial Day.
“... Guys that gave their lives for this country, they want people to go barbecue, they want people to go camping and enjoy the families and stuff like that,” he said. “This was just how we wanted to spend Memorial Day.”
And the two men hope more people will want to join them next year.