"Rucking," or hiking with a weighted backpack, has become a fitness phenomenon. A GORUCK Light Challenge will take place Saturday, Dec. 8, in East Point to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day. CONTRIBUTED: GORUCK

Pearl Harbor memorial event: sweat and pain for rucksack warriors 

The first time he visited the U.S.S. Arizona, the hallowed sunken battleship where 1,102 victims of Pearl Harbor are entombed, John Tackett was a youngster, visiting his father’s aircraft carrier on a “Tiger Cruise.”

(Tiger Cruises allowed family to visit sailors on the ships where they served.)

The next time he visited the war memorial, John Tackett was an adult. During that trip  he happened to be at the floating dock that straddles the sunken ship when a color guard brought a U.S.S. Arizona veteran to his final resting place.

One of Arizona’s 334 survivors had grown old. Before dying, he had willed that his remains join those of his brothers at arms.

As Tackett watched, divers brought the survivor’s cremated remains underwater and set them inside the Arizona, where the sailor rejoined his crewmates.

“It takes a lot for me to cry,” said Tackett, 61, a project manager for AT&T. “I don’t cry very often, but that time: that was one of them.”

The East Point resident and Army veteran plans to commemorate Pearl Harbor day in a different way this year.

John Tackett does some PT at a rucking event, crab-walking with his weighted rucksack on top of his chest. CONTRIBUTED: JASON TACKETT

He will be assisting, “shadowing,” as a group of “ruckers” struggle through a 12-hour ordeal, hiking for  10-12 miles with a heavy pack, perhaps laden with sandbags, or helping carry a telephone pole with their teammates.

Sometimes teammates are required to carry other teammates.

The activity is called a GORUCK Tough Challenge, and is a kind of exercise program and obstacle course created by the makers of military-quality rucksacks and other gear.

Related: Pearl Harbor events in Atlanta

Tackett’s event will begin at 9 p.m. on Pearl Harbor Day, Friday, Dec. 7, and continue until 9 a.m. the next morning.

This is called a Tough Challenge. A less-punishing introduction to “rucking” will take place later in the day on Saturday, with a 7-10-mile hike and a lighter load.

These challenges are led by veterans or active duty soldiers, all from special operations, according to the GORUCK website.

“The best way to describe it is military-style team-building exercises,” said Tackett. “It’s not all about you. It’s what you can contribute to the team, and the team will support you.”

GORUCK was founded in 2008 by a former Green Beret Jason McCarthy, and the company hosts more than 1,000 rucking events every year.

Rucking, hiking with a weighted backpack, and dealing with challenges as a team, has become a kind of fitness phenomenon.

About 60 people will be part of the rucking challenges this weekend, including veterans and civilians.

The Atlanta Light Challenge event, which costs $55, will begin at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, in Spring Street Park, adjacent to the East Point Historical Society, 1685 Norman Berry Dr.

For more information: www.goruck.com/event-13434/

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