Event by March for 22 raises awareness for veteran suicides

Military

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — While many were celebrating Veterans Day on Thursday, a group was walking 22 miles to raise awareness and support for local veterans’ mental health.

The march began in Maysville Thursday morning. More than 200 participants took part and, along the way, others were walking 22 kilometers along with a 2K walk. Many were also carrying 22-pound backpacks to signify the burden each veteran carries.

“I along with many of my other veteran colleagues and friends have seen people going through pain, people refusing to ask for help and people effectively taking their own lives because they feel like they are alone,” said Adin Colon, an Army veteran. “We have to be our own advocates and veterans take care of veterans better than anybody else.”

At mile 21 of the event, marchers had a few words to describe their feelings.

“Painful but we have embraced the model, embrace the suck and that leads to what this is all about for 22 veterans committing suicide every day,” one of the participants said.

“Emotional … we did this last year and there were only 10 people,” said Elizabeth Hartman, commander of American Legion Post 539, which hosted the event.

That number has grown.

“This year, we have 216 people registered and that incredible growth is a tribute to this incredible community and how they stepped up and are here for our veterans,” Colon said.

Not only did they walk 22 miles, but they also did it symbolically with the 22 pounds on their backs.

“To represent the burden many veterans have including myself. We go to sleep or try to go to sleep and we try to function through the day with this burden and constant weight … this constant reminder,” Colon said.

“Every dollar raised from today supports active duty, and veterans in the greater Craven County area,” Hartman said. “In the last two months we have put two veterans in a hotel and an apartment, gotten them off the streets. we buy groceries, art therapy courses, anything you can think of our post supports and this funding supports it.”

The money raised was a perfect tribute on Veterans Day.

“We have raised just over $30,000 and that is literally more lives than I can count have been touched by this event,” Hartman said.

Event organizers were emotional when talking about the turnout and support from the community. They are hopeful next year will result in a bigger march to help more veterans.

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