The Collingwood Legion welcomed three tired but determined guests the other night who are just over halfway through a gruelling “ruck.”
The three-man team from Hamilton, including Lino Di Julio, Joey Dimauro and Dave Ward is hiking the Bruce Trail in 34 days for the latest Ruck 2 Remember feat called Road 2 Recovery.
Rucking involves carrying a weighted pack on your back, and, in this case it will be carried by Dimauro and Di Julio for every one of the 900 kilometres on the Bruce Trail from Tobermory to Niagara-on-the Lake. They started on July 5 and will take their final steps on Aug. 7 while stopping at 20 different Legions along the way.
Ward is the team’s support and lifeline, following the hike in a truck, doing morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups, and running for supplies.
The team is raising money for Operation: Leave the Streets Behind, which helps and keeps veterans off the streets. The organization has helped 1,000 veterans in Ontario.
The Collingwood Legion contributed $1,000 to their cause, which came from the local poppy fund.
Di Julio is the founder of Ruck 2 Remember and spearheads the Road 2 Recovery event each year. He also participates in each of the events, which began with a task on July 20, 2014 when volunteers rucked 158 bricks from Hamilton to the Legion Hall in Parry Sound.
The bricks were each engraved with the name of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Di Julio is a civilian. He wasn’t able to serve in the military because of his epilepsy, so he started Ruck 2 Remember in support of front-line responders and the military.
Through the years, Ruck 2 Remember has raised $423,249 for Operation: Leave the Streets Behind.
Dimauro said it’s an important cause because there should never be homeless veterans.
“This is a community of people who, at a very young age, signed a paper to give their life for this place,” he said. “They’re on the street, some because of operational stress injuries, and they’ve slipped through the cracks.”
Ruck 2 Remember has put its mission in the name. They remember veterans and first responders, and honour those who have given their lives by working hard to take care of the ones who survived.
The ruck, in addition to raising money for Operation: Leave the Streets Behind, is designed each year to cover roughly two kilometres for each military, police, paramedic, and firefighter lost the year before. Typically that’s about 150 to 160 km, so the Bruce Trail’s 900 km is an atypically long task.
“This last year has seen exceedingly difficult times for the military and law enforcement and we thought it was prudent to reflect that in our event,” states the Ruck 2 Remember website.
Di Julio said he was grateful for Dimauro and Ward joining him on this year’s ruck, as both have helped him keep going.
Dimauro and Ward are both veterans from the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. Dimauro was in the second battalion from 1994 to 2000 stationed in Winnipeg, and Ward was in the first battalion on task force 111 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He became a military sniper and retired in 2021.
Ward considers both Dimauro and Di Julio his brothers. Though bonds were formed among the three before the Bruce Trail ruck, they’ve strengthened as the kilometres go on, and up, and around, and down.
“It’s tough and enduring and spiritual and sometimes therapeutic,” said Ward.
Dimauro, who has recce (recon) training has encouraged Di Julio through the physically gruelling days.
“We have a motto that’s, ‘doing the thing,’” said Dimauro. “When you miss your family .. when you just want to quit … we’re doing the thing.”
Dimauro was already rucking for fitness when he met Di Julio. It wasn’t long before Dimauro challenged Di Julio to step-up the challenge of the rucks.
So far the Bruce Trail hasn’t disappointed. Beaver Valley has proved to be a cardiovascular challenge because of the steep elevation changes and very hot days. The Bruce Peninsula, said the veteran, was the most technical.
In Wiarton they were swarmed by hornets. On July 19, one of the hottest days of the summer they finished a 23-km hike with an 1,800-metre section that went straight up from Beaver Valley to Old Baldy cliff.
“We’re pretty tough,” said Dimauro.
Along the way, the trio has been joined by other ruckers for portions of the trail, and they’ve met up with supporters at area legions.
Others are participating in the Ruck the Bruce virtually, and have six months to cover the 900 km.
If you’d like to support the Road 2 Recovery 9: Ruck the Bruce, you can donate online through their website here.
Di Julio, Ward, and Dimauro stayed at the Collingwood Legion last night and will be travelling to the Creemore Legion tonight.