On Veteran’s Day, one organization is marching 22 miles to raise awareness for the estimated 22 veterans, active-duty service members, and other military personnel who die by suicide each day.
The organization, March for the 22, was scheduled to march from Mayville, North Carolina beginning at approximately 4:30am to New Bern, NC on Veterans Day, in the second annual march for veteran suicide awareness in Craven County, which currently is home to about 20,000 veterans.
“It’s not just to bring awareness, but to also raise funds for programs specifically for veterans in our area that can be impactful,” said Adin Colon, according to the Sun Journal.
Colon, a Bronze Star recipient who spent 12 years in the U.S. Army, organized the first march in 2020. Several of the expected 120 participants are going to be hiking with an extra 22 pounds of weight.
“The 22 pounds signifies the constant burden that our veterans, especially those who suffer from PTSD, carrying on their shoulders and backs everyday,” Colon noted. “At the end of the day when everyone else gets to take that 22 pounds off, a lot of our veterans go to bed with that on their backs and tapered on their minds as well.”
According to reports from the Department of Veteran Affairs, the statistics on veteran suicides also include active-duty servicemembers.
“The key message is that suicides are elevated among those who have ever served,” Craig Bryan, a psychologist at the National Center for Veterans Studies said in 2018.
In comparison to the general population, suicide rates for veterans, specifically women veterans, are elevated. Some reports show that suicide rates might be starting to decline.
According to the official 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention report released in September, suicide rates declined from 2018-2019 in “unprecedented” ways. Still, in 2019 alone, over 6,000 veterans died by suicide.
“We have the heart and the will, but we know that suicide prevention will require all of us collectively and uniquely engaged within a unifying and overriding goal of saving lives from suicide. We, therefore, continue to seek everyone’s support, partnership, and engagement,” the VA wrote in its report.
Many across the country have decided to use Veteran’s Day to raise further awareness of the tragedy befalling many who serve in America’s armed forces.
“It’s a big problem,” said Navy veteran David Rogers of Ligonier, Pennsylvania, according to TribLive. “To me, there’s an awful lot of talk about how to help veterans, but not nearly enough action as I think there ought to be.”
On Veteran’s Day, Rogers walked from one veteran’s memorial in Ligonier ten miles away to another one in Latrobe, Pennslyvania, carrying an American flag.
Rogers says that the number of veterans lost every year is “just staggering.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.