Five Aggies braved sometimes harsh weather conditions and challenging terrain during a 1,000-mile ruck march that they completed this week, all in an effort to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
The five Project Atlas members started at the Grand Canyon and finished the 10-day journey at the Grand Tetons on Tuesday. Each day, the team drove to a new location to set up a tent, then hiked 10 miles out and 10 miles back to reach the 1,000 mile total. This was the third year that Aggies teamed up for a march to support the foundation.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit that provides financial assistance for postsecondary education to the surviving children of Special Operations personnel who died in the line of duty, and give funds to families of severely wounded special operations personnel.
The team was a couple thousand dollars shy of reaching its $15,000 goal as of Friday evening but will keep the link to donate open for the foreseeable future, said Hunter Birt, Texas A&M senior and member of the Corps of Cadets Company H-1.
“We’ve had a really good experience at Texas A&M, and we’ve grown a lot and learned a lot from our experience there,” Birt said. “We just figured it would be rewarding to be able to pay that forward and allow other people to be able to experience the same things.”
Birt and former roommate Ian Morrow thought up the idea for Project Atlas three years ago when the two were looking for ways to do more with their winter break.
This was Morrow’s second year participating in Project Atlas, since he was deployed overseas during the team’s second venture in 2019. He said it’s been great to see the fundraising effort grow beyond a conversation in a dorm room.
“It’s really awesome to see that something so small, an idea, is staying relevant rather than being something that was thought up and thrown away,” Morrow said.
Company H-1 cadets Nathanael Duty and Ethan Lochner also had participated in Project Atlas before; this was the first time for cadet Wyatt Vance to get involved.
Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez Jr., commandant of the Corps of Cadets, said he is not surprised that the cadets chose to spend their winter break marching across the country to raise money for a cause.
“That speaks to the kind of selfless people our cadets are, the values they embody every day and the kind of servant leaders they have become as members of the Corps of Cadets,” Ramirez said in Texas A&M Today. “I am proud of all of them and the way they are representing our university and our Corps.”
Last year, Project Atlas participants marched 1,100 miles from California to Oregon. This year, Birt and Morrow said colder weather and rougher terrain made the venture more challenging than usual, but both said it was worth the extra effort.
“Being able to help the families of fallen warriors ... at the end of the day is just one little thing we can do to pay our condolences and help them move on and get a good education and create a good life for themselves,” Morrow said.
To donate to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation through Project Atlas, visit http://bit.ly/projectatlasruck.