He is called the “company quartermaster”, the one who takes care of the supplies, the laundry and all the logistics necessary for Ruck the Brucea 900 kilometer trek along the entire length of the Bruce Trail which raises funds for homeless veterans.
Since the hike began in Tobermory on July 5, Dave Ward has been there to make sure hikers get what they need and are dropped off and picked up at points along the trail each day.
For the 37-year-old Mountain resident who has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, helping with the hike is more than support, it’s therapy.
Ward noted that a lot was going on in his life and that he was in a place of “extreme darkness” last Christmas.
He attempted to commit suicide.
While recovering at Hamilton General Hospital, Ward’s friend and Hamilton resident, Lino Di Julio (founder of the Ruck to remember group and organizer of Ruck the Bruce) and others staged a forced march around the hospital in a show of support.
A ruck march is a military term for a brisk march with a full backpack.
Their friendship has been strong ever since.
“I had to make a lot of adjustments, but I’m getting the help I need,” Ward said.
Di Julio said his friend’s help was vital for their journey.
“Without him it won’t happen,” said Di Julio. “He’s a busy guy.”
Hikers slept at Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) branches along the way.
Di Julio, Ward and fellow hiker and veteran Joey Dimauro were greeted by the mountain branch 163 pipes and drums and about 30 well-wishers when they arrived at the Legion of the Mountain (after a quick shower) just after 5 p.m. on August 2.
“I started my military career with a Highland Infantry unit, so having the bagpipes is pretty cool,” Dimauro said.
Di Julio said the Legion of the Mountain was the first group to greet them with bagpipes and drums since the start of their trek.
“It was a long walk,” he said. “The feet are sore, they’re a little bruised, the muscles are tired.”
Di Julio noted that the poison ivy he picked up on the back of his left leg earlier in the hike was almost completely gone.
Along with dinner and a place to sleep, the group received a $600 donation from the Ladies Auxiliary of Branch 163.
Hikers were scheduled to resume their walk on the Bruce Trail on August 3, heading to Stoney Creek and then to Niagara where they ended their journey on August 7.
They hope to raise $500,000 to support homeless veterans through Operation: Leave The Streets Behind, a program run by the Royal Canadian Legion.
As of August 3, they have raised nearly $170,000 on their GoFundMe page.
Mountain Legion chaplain and World War II veteran Reverend Francis Chisholm was among the well-wishers.
“It’s a great achievement in the heat,” he said.
“We had a decent turnout and our pipe band was excellent,” said Branch 163 President Sandy McElroy.
Hamilton Mountain MLA Monique Taylor, who has urged the City of Hamilton to support homeless veterans, honored the hikers during a brief address inside the Legion branch.
“What an amazing adventure,” she said. “Changing minds is what is happening in front of us.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Hamilton Community News wanted to follow up with Ruck the Bruce hikers when they came to Mountain Legion.