GUILFORD — On your mark, get set, ruck!

When the sixth annual APK 5K Run/Ruck/Walk and Kids Fun Run at Guilford Fair Grounds kicks off, among the sea of runners will be 20 participants from the 3rd Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, N.C., who started their journey on foot from Arlington National Cemetery

This year’s race is scheduled for 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Guilford Fair Grounds, 111 Lovers Lane, Guilford. For more information, visit apkcharities.org/events/ or call 860-543-2110.

The 3rd Special Forces group will actually be “rucking” the 365 miles from Arlington National Cemetery to Guilford over six days, through seven states. Some 40 soldiers will take park in this Ruck 2 Remember, with 20 of them traveling all the way to the APK event, in memory of U.S. Army Special Forces Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel.

This expedition starts in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where Pedersen-Keel is buried.

Organizers of the APK 5K, Bob and Helen Pedersen-Keiser, of Madison, are passionate about giving back to military families and soldiers that work to protect our freedom.

As a Gold Star Mom, whose only son, Pedersen-Keel, was killed in action, in Afghanistan, March 11, 2013, Helen says she is finding solace in helping others through APK Charities Corporation (http://www.apkcharities.org).

In keeping with the military theme, the Ruck will be a simulation of the Muck March, an endurance and strengthening exercise where soldiers walk at a fast pace carrying a fully loaded “rucksack,” commonly known as a backpack.

They will be joined, along the way by Gold Star families, including Helen Pedersen-Keiser who will leave Arlington National Cemetery with the group.

“It brings tears to my eyes and it’s mostly because they’re keeping their promise to never forget,” says Helen. “Think of that, the brotherhood is as deep and as wide as you can imagine and I’m so impressed I’m in their world and I own all to Andrew.”

The Ruck 2 Remember was the brainstorm of the Pedersen-Keiser’s and William Reese, chief warrant officer 2, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, N.C.

“I was talking to Bob Keiser and he wanted to create something for men and women, active duty, veterans and Gold Star families, to express themselves through physical actions,” explains Reese.

He added that this is a well-known therapy known as dialectical behavior therapy.

“It’s taking negative thoughts, turning them into positive thoughts through positive action and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” says Reese.

The journey will be segmented into five sections of 60 miles, one section of 30 miles and one section of 35 miles.

In addition, 11 soldiers will be participating in the Ruck Anywhere option, rucking in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Reese, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing in at 325 pounds, will be outfitted “just as if I was going to combat, minus the actual munitions,” he explains and he will carry a 45-pound backpack “loaded up with everything I would use going on a mission.”

Local participants are encouraged to bring a backpack with non-perishable food items, which will be donated to the St. George Food Pantry and Guilford, Madison and West Hartford food banks.

Money raised during the event will be divided up the Special Forces Charitable Trust, Fisher House – West Haven, APK Endowment Fund with the Madison & Guilford Foundations and Spikes K9 Fund.

Reese says he and his fellow soldiers are honoring U.S. Special Forces, in addition to Navy EOD, Air Force Combat Controllers and DEA FAST Special Agents.

For Helen Pedersen-Keiser, this is emotional.

“They really kept their word, they will not forget their brothers,” she says. “That means remembering the Gold Star families. They are so true to their word.”

Her husband, Bob Pedersen-Keiser, echoes this.

“It’s amazing that people are coming out for APK Charities,” he says. “This is for a military charity, it’s to keep Andrew’s name alive, it’s in his memory and what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to extend it that to all the others who have died from Connecticut.”

For Helen Pedersen-Keiser, her son is always with her as she works on this mission.

“If I didn’t believe that I probably would have died,” she says. “I would have died of a broken heart.

“That’s the way God works, I guess, because he had allowed me to not despair,” she adds. “It’s a gift.

“That is the answer to grief, is to find a way to avoid yourself and think of others,” she says.

As the president of the Gold Star Mothers of CT, this is the message she delivers to others facing the same heartbreak.

“We’re about to meet two new mothers who are early grieving and that will be my message to them,” she says, “once they are ready to move forward, which takes time, that’s the salvation, serving others.”

Connecticut Media Group