The idea came to Joshua Lees while attending a charity event at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan last year. The dinner was in support of Badger Six, a charity set up by former CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers in support of the Afghans who fought alongside the first paramilitary teams to insert into Afghanistan after 9/11.
"I thought that we should have something in Hoboken, more than just putting together little charity events to raise money for this self-licking ice cream cone thing," Lees who is an Army Civil Affairs veteran who was deployed to Iraq and the Congo told Connecting Vets.
The Ruck the River 2023 event was born, taking participants from the 9/11 memorial in Hoboken along the Hudson River on a ruck march, and eventually looping back to the Hoboken chapter of the American legion.
"I think that one of the main reasons why I needed to bring this here and show these people that this is something that they should take personally that they should feel that, especially if they were here on 9/11," Lees said.
Former CIA officer who served on Team Alpha, the second paramilitary team inserted into Afghanistan spoke at the event as it raised money for Badger Six, which is directly involved in caring for the Afghans who helped America after the 9/11 attacks and is aiding them in immigrating to the United States.
The goal of the event was, "maximum outreach that would expose the situation and maybe the urgency of the situation," for the refugees and internally displaced American allies in Afghanistan, Lees explained.
About 100 people showed for the first annual Ruck the River on Veteran's Day and Lees confirmed that the American Legion would host the event in subsequent years, as he has also had other charities and veteran service organizations reach out to him wanting to get involved.
"I'm just gonna keep doing the Badger Six stuff because you know that mission is not dying anytime soon," Lees said.