GUNNISON—A downpour of rainy weather was not enough to dampen the patriotism at last weekend’s United We March Gut Check in the Gunnison Valley.
The event was spread over two days, with the patriotic procession, featuring giant U.S. flag Big Betsy, dinner and auction on Friday, followed by the main event, the ruck march, on Saturday. Both days were plagued by rough weather, but that didn’t stop anything.
“People stayed and stuck it out,” says Justen Mellor, organizer for the event, now in its fourth year. “The ruck marchers had sideways rain. People said, ‘I gotta do this.’ Their personal gut check was successful. The last two people made it with smiles on their faces. It was a year they’ll never forget.”
Each year, the event falls on the weekend closest to the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers. Mellor walked along the march route taking down the flags that marked the route and reflecting on the event, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“It’s always a good feeling that all these flags along the route will be put away until next year’s gut check,” Mellor said. “They did their job; they filled everybody’s hearts and reminded us. We’ll never forgot, but we needed that booster shot.”
Mellor created the event as a way to honor servicemen and first responders, and through an auction and other fundraising efforts during the weekend, raise money that goes to benefit charities that support their sacrifice such as the CPL Acel Thompson Not Forgotten Fund, Utah 1033 Foundation, Utah Valley University Veteran Success Center and the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. Last year, the event raised more than $50K.
This year, when the rain hit during the auction, instead of fleeing to their cars, Mellor said attendees sprang up to help preserve the auction items from the wet weather.
“The auction was amazing,” Mellor said. “We didn’t have a little rain; we had a lot of dang rain. People stood up and worked together to cover the auction items. They didn’t leave. They stayed and helped.”
Mellor believes through service and gratitude, the U.S. can escape a widening division that focuses more on differences than similarities.
“There was a lot of love, patriotism, care and working together in his valley yesterday,” he said. “We’re lucky to live here in this valley and this country… We can be that greatest generation. We’ve had one before; there isn’t a greater opportunity to unite and be together. In the next 20 years, we’re just going to get stronger, all of us.”