SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Gold Star mom Debbie Lee saw her son Marc Alan Lee's photo on the side of the Carry the Load bus for the first time on Monday.
Lee's son was killed in Iraq.
"My son Marc Lee is on this bus. He was the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq on August 2, 2006. I've dedicated my life to our troops, to our veterans, to our Gold Star families." said Lee.
Two Navy SEALs created Carry the Load 10 years ago to remember the fallen on Memorial Day.
The relay went virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year it is back in a big way.
West Coast Relay Manager Michael "Goldy" Golden said, "It began with two SEALs in 2011, and they walked around a lake to remember their friends, and here we are 10 years later. We have raised $26 million."
The relay started on April 29 this year and spans every state and more than two dozen countries.
Lee said Memorial Day is not about holiday sales, it is about honoring the fallen, including her son.
She trained daily for her five-mile walk from the old Sears in Santa Barbara to Santa Barbara City College.
Another group walked from SBCC to Trader Joe's on Milpas on Monday evening.
Retired Marine Jacob Schick walked for miles on Monday too.
Schick is the CEO of 22 KILL an organization that raises awareness for suicides among military personnel. It is one of many nonprofits that benefit from relay donations.
"I'm here to honor my brothers and sisters that are no longer with us, and what I am thinking about is a mental Rolodex of all the men and women who are better than I'll ever be," said Schick.
Jason Dickens is friends with the Carry the Load relay founders Stephen Holley and Clint Bruce. Dickens will see them in Reverchon Park in Dallas on Memorial Day.
"I've been on here since our leg one and I think it is our 280th leg, so I am here from day one all the way until we walk into Dallas on Memorial Day to finish our relay," said Dickens.
A bicycle leg rode them to a fire station along the coast in Ventura County after dark. The next stop will be Los Angeles.
Some of the participants sleep on the bus, while others join the relay when it gets to their community.
Golden wears dog tags around his neck and gets emotional when he talks about the first responders who died in the line of duty. The Carry the Load relay also works to remember those fallen first responders.
People who wish to join the 15,500-mile relay, which will end on Memorial Day, may visit www.carrytheload.org to find the nearest locations and register.