Army Reserve officer rucks to veterans' memorials to raise awareness

By Sgt. Hector Rene Membreno-Canales | U.S. Army Reserve Element European Command | Dec. 26, 2018

Devens, Mass. — For many, the weekend signals a time to unwind, relax and see friends after a long work week, but for Capt. Matthew C. Rinaldi, it’s the best time to visit a memorial and go for a ruck.

Rinaldi, a Billerica, Massachusetts, native and artillery officer assigned to U.S. Army Reserve Element European Command, Fort Devens, founded Rucks Up!, a crowd sourcing organization that aims to increase awareness and support for veterans through a series of ruck marches.

"When a guy gets out of combat arms from active duty, his path is tough," stressed Rinaldi. "There's not a clear path for guys with less traditional trades."

Combat veterans frequently work in civil service because they’re trained to react quickly in high tempo situations, he said.

"The civil service work like EMT [Emergency Medical Technician], law enforcement and firefighting is not easy, and it requires an exam, more training, and patience."

Rinaldi explains that this transitionary period can be difficult, especially for veterans with families to support, so resourceful veterans will work in security as a bouncer, in armored trucks, or public safety. 

After his own tough experience transitioning from active duty to the civilian workforce he began noticing the great work done by several veteran social welfare organizations and wanted to do more, but he grew frustrated standing by and didn’t want to just donate money to worthy charities, so the military officer in him put his training and leadership skills to work to create Rucks Up!, to support other veterans organizations who work to support combat veterans after their military service has ended.

He had concerns after hearing about several a scam targeting supporters of homeless veterans, so he developed a plan to create transparency and buy-in. 

Rinaldi created a Facebook page, Twitter, GoFundMe crowd sourcing, and email account so that he could easily share his milestones, donations, photographs and geo-tagging so that his followers may track his mileage and rucksack weight.

In October, Rinaldi posted information about a $400 donation that he raised for Disabled American Veterans through Rucks Up! and according to the GoFundMe page, he has visited 13 towns and hiked over 55 miles.

”DAV does really great work,” he said. “They’re the most active organization I’ve seen and have done a good job of including the post 9/11 generation of veterans in to the organization.”

Today, DAV has a more than 1 million members and a history dating back to 1920.

Rinaldi, who is recently assigned to U.S. ARE EUCOM, brings with him career experiences ranging from a deployment to Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, a commitment to physical fitness and a sincere commitment to Soldiers and Veterans.

U.S. ARE EUCOM provides timely support to the combatant command and enhances its ability to conduct military operations. The more than 160 members of the unit provide international and interagency partnering to enhance transatlantic security and defend the United States forward.