Army veteran Jason Ray has been going on rucks (a weighted walk) throughout Dartmouth and Westport for the past few years now and for the most part, folks have happily honked and waved in support as they passed by. But for the umpteenth time, someone called the police over Ray's "suspicious" appearance.

Ray’s rucks consist of a minimum of a seven-mile loop wherein he wears a 30-pound weighted tactical vest to replicate the weight of wearing a rucksack. As if walking the hilly terrain isn’t hard enough with 30 extra pounds, Ray also carries a flag with him. At first, his rucks started with an American flag, then an American flag with a smaller Mission 22 flag beneath it, and now Ray’s rucks include a full-size Mission 22 flag.

Ray will go rucking three to four times a week depending on his work schedule, weather, and other extracurricular activities. You’ll see him walking a few different routes, mostly sticking to primary roadways like Old Westport Road, Faunce Corner Road, and Chase Road. When you think about how busy the roads are and how frequently Ray is out and about, there are a lot of opportunities for people to drive by him and wonder.

While the majority of honks and waves are positive, Ray’s rucks are still met with concern by some.

“I’ve had the cops called on me. Someone saw me on Faunce Corner and told them I was carrying a bomb. Other people have said I look ‘suspicious,'" Ray said. "Most of the time I’m actually smiling and sometimes you may even catch me dancing.”

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Shortly after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, someone called Ray a "traitor" from their Jeep.

“'Traitor' was the worst one, being a veteran. I’ve never betrayed my country," he said.

After an incident on Sunday, Ray’s wife Genevieve took to Facebook to just let everyone know that Jason is not a threat and welcomes any questions people may have when they see him rather than yell at him or continue to call the police.

“We understand that in the world today, seeing someone dressed like Jason may give people pause because it's out of the ordinary," she wrote. "We know that people wonder what's going on and why some people are hesitant to just walk up to him.”

If you’ve seen Jason Ray walking across Dartmouth and Westport, here are the answers to the questions going through your head:

Why is he doing this?

"Rucking, for me, is about bringing awareness and action to veteran suicide prevention," he said. That is why he carries the Mission 22 flag every time.

What is Mission 22?

Mission 22 is a program for veterans and their families to help with their post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and other issues facing veterans. His 22-mile Veterans Day ruck last year raised over $4,000.

Is this a political thing?

These rucks are in no way political. “My oath prevents me from being political openly. I stand by my oath," he said.

Why is he walking alone?

“I walk alone because no one has offered to walk with me yet," he said. "I’ve posted for people to come walk with me and offered to meet up with them, but so far it’s just me.”

Does he walk in any kind of weather?

Ray has walked in lots of weather, from nasty, windy nights to rain to hot summer mornings. If he is set on rucking that day, he rucks.

What are the yellow ribbons on the top of the flag?

There are nine yellow ribbons with names of veterans who have been lost to suicide. Seven of the names are local to the area. "People send in their loved ones' names to add so they can ruck with Jay," he said.

After the latest visit from the police, the family has moved forward in setting up a Facebook page dedicated to Ray’s rucks making it easier for people to learn about the rucks and Mission 22 effort. You can follow Jason Ray - Rucking for Veterans here.

Contributed Photo

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