Running a marathon takes a lot of courage and commitment. And so does marching the same distance while carrying a 50 pound backpack.
On March 29, hundreds of people did just that along the 26.2 mile Boston marathon route to raise awareness about the disturbingly high suicide rate among veterans. Sadly, an average of 22 veterans a day kill themselves, and the marchers are determined to reduce that number. Some turned the trek into a “ruck march” — carrying heavy backpacks like those servicemen and women wear, while others wore tutus and one accountant wore a gas mask, according to Todd Wallack of the Boston Globe.
Carlos Arredondo, the cowboy-hatted good samaritan who sprang into action to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last year, was on hand to support the marchers. His son Alexander was a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004, and his son Brian committed suicide in 2011. The cause is “very close to our hearts and our family,” he told Wallack.
Participants set a goal to raise $75,000 for Active Heroes, a Louisville, Kentucky-based nonprofit building a retreat for veterans and their families (the same charity one father and son team are hiking the Appalachian trail to support). Michelle Lyons, who served in Afghanistan, told Wallack that for veterans, “There is so much help out there — they just don’t know how to get to it.” As for the suicide rate among veterans, she said, “Hopefully we can bring that number down to zero.”
With the determination of these marathon marchers, veterans’ despair should be turned into hope.
MORE: This Father and Son are Hitting the Trail to Prevent Veteran Suicide