Ruck march brings out supporters of all ages
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Hundreds laced up their boots, strapped on their packs and marched 20 miles Saturday, Nov. 9, to show their support for those suffering with PTSD, or in memory of those who lost their battle with PTSD.
For the seventh year, 4th HOOAH hosted the 20-Mile Suicide Awareness Ruck March throughout Greater Green Bay.
“We had approximately 850 participants and almost 100 volunteers,” said Scott Conklin, 4th HOOAH vice president.
One of those ruckers was 11-year-old Isabelle Cruz of Stillwater, Minnesota.
“I wanted to help raise awareness for veterans with PTSD, so no one else dies and so everyone realizes what a big deal PTSD is,” Cruz said. “I wanted to do my part to help lower the number of 20 a day.”
She, along with her mother, Brooke Sonnen Cruz, rucked with team Marching for Marine in memory of Army Sgt. Don Marine, who lost his battle with PTSD to suicide in 2016.
Cruz knows all to well the sacrifices of servicemen and women.
Her uncle served in the Air Force, and several close family friends have dealt with combat-related PTSD.
“It was special for me to be out there seeing veterans out rucking with me and be able to inspire others to keep going,” Cruz said. “Even though it was really, really hard, I still kept going because I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to show people that I could do it, and if I can do it, then they can, too.”
Sonnen Cruz is a member of 1st HOOAH in Minnesota and travels to Green Bay every year to march in Green Bay’s ruck.
This was Isabelle’s first year participating in the ruck march.
Cruz served as the team’s captain for her dedication and enthusiasm for the cause.
“Words cannot describe how proud I am of my little trooper,” Sonnen Cruz said. “Not only did she ruck all 20 miles, but at 11 years old, she also carried the full 20 pounds. She inspired so many throughout the day.”
Cruz did a lot of work leading up to last Saturday’s event, raising $2,100 to support 4th HOOAH programs.
“She held an online Pampered Chef Fundraiser where she did several YouTube videos to promote HOOAH and our mission,” Sonnen Cruz said. “She went door-to-door selling candy bars. She asked friends and family to donate online. With each donation she was able to educate people on what HOOAH is and the veteran suicide epidemic. Her grand fundraising total also included her own money from her piggy bank.”
Conklin said the event raised a little more than $100,000, which accounts for about 80 percent of 4th HOOAH’s yearly budget for programs.
He said 100 percent of funds raised go into programs designed to help local veterans in Wisconsin with physical, mental, emotional and financial needs.
“These community events are designed to get people involved and help alleviate stigmas that surround veterans and bring light to some of their needs,” Conklin said. “All the money raised during these events goes right back to the support programs and growing those programs throughout the state.”
It took the sixth grader nearly seven hours to complete the 20-mile ruck, but it’s an experience she will never forget.
She plans to hit the pavement again next year for the ruck’s eighth year.
“It was very important to know that I was raising awareness for something serious,” Cruz said. “I hope that people will read this so they can participate in upcoming years.”