Someone asked me why I wanted to have this Veteran’s Suicide Awareness Walk. I was caught off guard a little bit and gave a simple, “it’s a worthy cause that needs attention.”
Later, I got to thinking about it and I needed a better answer for myself. When I do things, especially big things, I need to know why. I need to know it’s not only worth my time, but it’s going to be worthy of other people’s time and attention. I need to have a vision about it and that it's not just a task to be completed.
I realized there were multiple reasons I created this event and why I feel it’s important. I’m a veteran myself, when I turned 18 I joined the Marine Corps. I did it for some practical reasons, but I also did it for love of country and love of my fellow citizens. I thought my country and my people were worthy of the sacrifice and the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice. I think most people who join the military have similar thoughts to varying degrees.
My cousin Bobby and I grew up very close. Bobby, his brother Dave, my brother Mike and myself spent a lot of time together growing up, all like brothers. As boys would do, we played soldier and make-believe war in the fields and woods.
Bobby was a year younger than me. I joined the Marines in 1988 and he joined the Marines in 1989 after graduation. He dreamed of joining the military. Although it was never spoken, I suspect he followed me in partly due to looking up to me. But, I do know that he loved his country and thought we were worthy of the sacrifice.
Bobby served for 12 years and was finally discharged. Life outside of that vision and structure didn’t set well for Bobby. He struggled in the darkness. On November 18, 2003 Bobby succumbed to that very darkness. Out of torment, he committed suicide leaving many unanswered questions and we will never know the answers.
Bobby and other specific veteran suicides have found a home in me. It would be accurate to say that veteran suicide is on my mind and heart, but to say I have the answers would be wishful thinking. I do know Bobby struggled in the darkness as so many veterans do, as so many of you are struggling today. Just know that you’re not alone. I’ve spent my share of time in the darkness, but fortunately I’ve been spared and now spend my time in the sun. Not everyone is so fortunate.
So, here’s my best answer to the question, "why did I create this event." Over 20 veterans a day commit suicide. The very people that committed to protecting us, can not protect themselves. Between 1999 and 2010, 22 veterans a day committed suicide. That’s one every 65 minutes. That’s why you see the 22 being used to promote awareness. That’s 22 veterans that could not go One More Mile. They were overwhelmed and couldn’t go on.
So, on October 5th, 2019 I will walk that One More Mile for all 22 veterans. It’s the very least I can do. They lost the ultimate battle, so we must stand in their place. Join me on October 5th to Walk One More Mile for our struggling veterans. Even if you can only walk one mile, that represents a life. When our veterans can’t, we must go that One More Mile for them.
I’ll see you there.