GUNNISON—Years of committed volunteer work have turned United We March and the Gunnison Gut Check from a small, grassroots event to a major draw for the area and a big boost to the heroes it aims to honor.
The event pays tribute to first responders and servicemen and women who help to make our country so great, says United-We-March organizer and Gunnison resident Justen Mellor.
This year, the Gunnison Gut Check, which took place on Friday and Saturday, was in its fifth iteration. Thanks to the hard work of United-We- March volunteers, it continues to grow.
“I think if we can stick to our core beliefs, we will continue to grow,” Mellor told the Messenger. “How do you measure success? It’s not monetary, it’s what you feel inside. If people didn’t care, they wouldn’t show up. I felt like there was a lot of healing this year.”
And show up they did, with participants and attendees coming out on Friday and Saturday for different parts of the two-day event.
This year, Mellor and United-We-March volunteers wanted to focus on honoring
Vietnam veterans, both local and out-of-area. They brought the Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall, a 80-percent scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to Gunnison for people to experience in person.
“That Vietnam wall got a lot of people coming out,” Mellor said. “Elementary school kids, high school kids. We had it set up, and within the first few hours a lady was passing through with her husband, and her brother’s name was on the wall, and that was the first (time) she’d ever seen (it). At that point, we were like, ‘We’re done. We can walk away. We were successful.’”
Mellor said United We March wanted to “welcome home” all the Vietnam era veterans.
The winners of this year’s ruck races are, as usual, divided into categories. The full race is 26 pounds and the half race is half that distance. The terms “heavy” and “light” refer to the weight of backpacks competitors carry.
Jared Inouye took first place in the full light race, while Riley Hansen took first in full heavy. Edgarf Ayala won first place in half light, while Carson Lund was tops in half heavy.
In the shorter, Mini Gut Check, Lincoln Westenskow took top honors.
All proceeds from the event go to charities that benefit first-responders and servicemen and women.