Parade through Arkadelphia a reminder of Memorial Day’s true meaning

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

It was a hot midday, but that didn’t stop about 20 local residents from joining a national relay that made Arkadelphia part of its stop en route to Dallas.

After making a walk through Hot Springs on Wednesday morning, Carry the Load started its 3-mile Arkadelphia walk at Cliff Harris Stadium and ended at the Pine Plaza parking lot before continuing their southwestward journey to Bossier City, Louisiana.

The nonprofit organization dedicated the Arkadelphia leg to Sr. Chief Special Warfare Operator Robert J. Reeves, a cousin of Arkadelphia resident Lori Motl. Reeves, a member of SEAL Team 6, perished in August 2011 in Afghanistan after the helicopter he and 23 other servicemen were riding in was gunned down.

“We do this in honor of him,” said Lori’s husband, Casey; the Motl family has participated in Carry the Load relays for several years. They call their family “Team Bobby Courage,” a monicker given to Reeves for persevering Hell Week not once but twice. Suffering pneumonia, Reeves was pulled from a final swim event on the final day of Hell Week. “He went back and did it all again because he wanted to serve so badly,” Casey said.

Reeve’s likeness is among four displayed on the bus that transports the walkers from city to city.

The route took the walkers along 8th Street, then onto Caddo, where along the way they passed dozens of students at Peake Elementary School who lined the street and encouraged them on.

Carry the Load’s Hunter Lovelace high-fives Peake Elementary students who cheered on the group as it passed through Arkadelphia.

Having a student body greet them “was a first for us,” said Hunter Lovelace, a Georgia college student who helps document Carry the Load. He is part of the crew that’s been part of the New England route of the relay since leaving Vermont in late April. Lovelace, who’s dedicated past summers to help Carry the Load, was impressed with the turnout of support from Arkadelphia residents.

The group’s main goal is to revive the true meaning of Memorial Day, which for many seems to have become just a summer holiday for grilling or going to the lake. Their aim is to raise public awareness that Memorial Day is meant to honor fallen veterans and public safety workers like firefighters and law enforcement officers.

Another Arkadelphia participant this year was local attorney Greg Vardaman, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the walk “for all my brothers who have served. This walk is for the memory of every man and woman, especially those who have fallen for the service of our country. It’s a small part I get to play, to come out and celebrate the greatest country in the world, made so by our military.”

Among others this year were Louis Craig, Clark County Veteran Services Officer; and U.S. Army Master Sgt. Delton Simpson, who served two tours in Vietnam. The Arkadelphia Police Department and Arkadelphia Fire Department escorted the parade.

Pictured, from left, are Gregory Vardaman, Delton Simpson and Louis Craig.

After the Bossier City stop, the crew will veer north to Texarkana, ultimately reaching Dallas by Memorial Day.

The Arkadelphian participated in the 2023 event to Carry the Load for Cpl. Brent Scrimshire, a Hot Springs Police Department officer who was killed in the line of duty on March 10, 2020. Scrimshire, a Malvern native, was a graduate of Henderson State University.

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