Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Tough Ruck for Rep. Kelcourse

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March 28 2017/Amesbury – Daily News by Jim Sullivan   — State Rep. Jim Kelcourse can often be found walking the streets of his district, meeting and greeting residents during campaign season, but this time he’s hitting the road with 35 pounds of military equipment on his back, training for the Tough Ruck.

“I was always out there, walking around during the campaign and I was carrying my materials,” said Kelcourse, R-Amesbury. “So, this has been kind of an easy transition. It’s just the sack is a little heavier.”

Tough Ruckers, a group of military members and civilians, march with a full military issue rucksack in memory of fallen service members and first responders.

 When Kelcourse heard about April’s upcoming Tough Ruck from fellow state Rep. Jerry Parisella, D-Beverly, he was instantly in.

“Jerry asked me to do this and I said, ‘Absolutely,’” Kelcourse said. “It’s two days before the Boston Marathon and we will receive the first lot of the Boston Marathon’s medals.”

Not a military veteran himself and never having rucked before, Kelcourse was given the option of entering into the Tough Ruck’s civilian division where a 15-pound rucksack would be sufficient.

Instead, the former Villanova University football player opted to lug the full 35 pounds to support the Military Friends Foundation in honor of Army 1st Lt. Derek Hines of Newburyport and Army Specialist Jordan Shay of Amesbury, both of whom died in the line of duty.

“It’s for a great cause and I’m always up for a challenge, whether it is athletics, running for office, taking the bar exam, raising children, being a good husband — it is what I do,” Kelcourse said. “This is part of the job. The Military Families Foundation is a good foundation and this is money that is needed to support military veterans and families that have fallen on hard times as a result of active service.”

As a civilian rucking along with the military division, Kelcourse will be marching alongside Parisella and state Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield, at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, where the trio will have nine hours to complete the 26.2-mile course April 15.

Looking to march as authentically as he can, Kelcourse approached Army Staff Sgt. Joe LeBlanc, who loaned him his personal rucksack and added some realistic weight to it.

“This is not like wearing a school bag or a backpack. It is pretty big,” LeBlanc said. “You can pack a lot of stuff in it and you know you’re wearing it. I showed him where to position it and I threw a bunch of military issue items in there like chemical boots, a fold-up chair and a mat. I also had a tunafish MRE that I threw on top.”

With his rucksack full of military gear, Kelcourse has been hitting the road each day, along with his 2-year-old black Labrador, Boo.

“I leave my house and I go out for hours,” Kelcourse said. “I put in 15 miles over the weekend and yesterday I did a quick four miles before work. My goal is to get as close to the 26.2 miles as I can.”

At 43 years old, Kelcourse has also been hitting the gym and playing hockey to prepare for the ruck as well as setting up a fundraising page at https://give.classy.org/repkelcourserucks  where people can sponsor him.

“I will be finishing the ruck, guaranteed,” Kelcourse said.

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