Virtual Ruck Challenge aims to raise money for veterans

Source: CeFaan Kim, WABC 7 

As Veterans Day approaches, an organization is promoting physical fitness challenges to boost mental health. For members of the military, "rucking-it" was a true test of endurance. Marching over a long distance with weighted backpacks is a mental challenge as much as it is physical.

"If you were infantry or special operations you probably have horrible nightmares and memories about carrying these things because it was probably about 120 pounds of spine-crushing weight that you're carrying," Mark Otto of the United War Veterans Council said.

But for the past several years, the United War Veterans Council, in partnership with GoRuck, veteran owned and operated company, has turned rucking into a fundraiser. In 2019, Eyewitness News tagged along for an 8.5 mile ruck through Manhattan. Things will be different this year because of COVID. The challenge will be virtual during the month of October through Veterans Day on November 11.

"Physical health ties to mental health right? So it gets you out there, you're active, you're carrying a manageable amount of weight," Otto said. "Generally speaking, people who are under 150 pounds, you're carrying 20 pounds or more, you're carrying 30 or more pounds."

The October Virtual Ruck Challenge will raise money for the United War Veterans Council (UWVC), better known for throwing the annual New York City Veterans Day parade. UWVC also runs a health and wellness program for at-risk veterans at a center by the Jersey Shore. Activities include horseback riding, art therapy and sailing.

Over a thousand veterans dealing with PTSD, homelessness, addiction and other struggles have been reintegrated back into society. Otto says the program is especially important now with the pandemic exacerbating homelessness and mental health issues. He says rucking done alone can clear your mind and get you outside.

"Especially in this environment with COVID everyone is feeling isolated, they have all types of stressors in their lives. This allows you to get out and do something," Otto said.

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