The True Meaning of Memorial Day Isn't a Three-Day Weekend - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The True Meaning of Memorial Day Isn't a Three-Day Weekend

The True Meaning of Memorial Day Isn't a Three-Day Weekend

By Caitlin McGilley


This is why I carried a 31-pound backpack to honor fallen heroes.

By Caitlin McGilley

OZY and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs and their good business are helping the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.

Last May, I trekked three and a half miles through New York City’s streets, lugging a 31-pound backpack. This was my Memorial Day tribute.

The weight on my shoulders symbolized the pain carried by families and loved ones of fallen military members. I carried photos of 30 men who never returned from war. The men and one military working dog were in a Chinook helicopter that was shot down by enemy forces in Wardak province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 6, 2011. I didn’t know these men personally, but I served in their unit.

I served on active duty with the Navy from 2008 to 2015 and was deployed multiple times around the world. But on this day, along with hundreds of other employees from JPMorgan Chase & Co. — many of whom are veterans themselves — I marched from midtown Manhattan to Ground Zero to honor friends, family and fellow service members. It was part of Carry the Load, a 33-day, 6,600-mile national relay that culminates on Memorial Day in Dallas.

As a vice president at JPMorgan Chase, I remain closely connected to the military and veteran communities. Just months after I started working at the company’s Manhattan headquarters, I learned of JPMorgan Chase’s partnership with Carry the Load, a Dallas-based nonprofit founded in 2011 by former Navy SEALs Clint Bruce and Stephen L. Holley, Jr.


The program is dedicated to providing active, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes — whether they served in the military, law enforcement, or as firefighters and first responders. So far, Carry the Load has gifted more than $3.4 million to initiatives across the country that serve the military and first responders.

I joined the firm’s Tri-State employee team with my wife, West Point instructor Capt. Becky McGilley, and together we began fundraising for the event. You’re likely to find me at any event that JPMorgan Chase & Co. sponsors in honor of the military. We can’t do enough for service members and their families, and I’m really proud to work for a company that recognizes the importance of providing support for Carry the Load.

As I trudged down Fifth Avenue, I reflected on my earlier decision to carefully weigh 31 pounds of books — one pound for each life lost — and place them in my backpack. But no matter how much pain it caused me physically to bear the weight of them, it paled in comparison to the pain carried by the families of those we’ve lost.

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