VOORHEESVILLE – A local distillery sponsored a Veteran’s Day Ruck March on Saturday, November 11 along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail and to collect donations for local food pantries across the Capital District.
The event, sponsored by New Scotland Spirits, commenced at the Voorheesville’s American Legion Post 1493 and proceeded 0.3 miles down Voorheesville Avenue, over the railroad tracks, to the intersection with the Rail Trail.
Participants then marched 3.1 miles down the Rail Trail—past the historic Hilton Barn—to the intersection of Font Grove Road. There, ruck marchers “about faced” and headed back to the Legion, where finishers were greeted with a catered after-party to commend their performances and collect all comestibles intended for donation.
What’s a “Ruck March” you may ask?
The ruck march is a staple of military training—a test of physical ability and mental stability. The objective is simple: get from point A to point B with all the essentials on your back in a “ruck sack” weighing between 35 and 85 lbs.
“In our case, the “essentials” are any groceries and supplies (food, toiletries, etc.) that participants wish to donate after shouldering the load down and back the Albany County Rail Trail,” according to the event’s website.
“Like every single veteran in every single city in every single state, I cringe when people thank me for my service,” said Jesse Sommer, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and founder of Albany County-based New Scotland Spirits. “The gratitude doesn’t fit. Like, yeah I saw some (stuff). But I also made it home, got paid well, traveled to some places, made some friends. I’d rather people thank me for my belief in America—it’s why I joined in the first place. Assembling people who share that belief is why we do this.”
The company is also donating proceeds from one of its products to charity in honor of military medics. New Scotland Spirits donates 68% of all profits from every sale of a bottle of “68W” to the Hidden Battles Foundation, which specializes in the treatment of alcoholism in veterans and first responders.
“68W is the phonetic MOS [military occupational specialty] code for the Army Combat Medic. Medics are an indispensable force on the battlefield and often the difference between being blessed to celebrate Veterans Day instead of being remembered on Memorial Day,” Sommer said in an interview published in True Brew magazine.
Dozens of marchers turned out for the event this year. The company plans to continue the event each year on Veterans Day.
Nearly a hundred people participated in last year’s ruck march, in the process raising $2,950 for the Boot Campaign. “We also donated $1,000 to the Hidden Battles Foundation and 1,200 pounds of nonperishables [to the Food Pantries for the Capital District],” Sommer said, “and every single one of those pounds was schlepped on our backs.”