Group travels 2.2 miles on 2/2 for 22 veterans who commit suicide every day

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Rain, sleet, snow or hail – people coast to coast are walking 2.2 miles in 22 states over the next 22 days.

Walkforveterinarians intentionally begins on the second day of the second month of this year, raising awareness of the 22 veterans who commit suicide daily across the country.

Hundreds of people are marching across the country, and despite the downpours on Tuesday, a small group of women started on the steps of the Capitol in downtown Jackson.

“22 suicides a day is 22 too many,” said Judy Hughes. “Every day when we wake up, we wake up free. It is thanks to veterans that we are free.

Hughes is a former Veterans Services officer whose father, grandfather, and uncle served in various wars.

She has been surrounded by veterans all her life and understands some of their experiences.

“When a veteran describes the feeling of the sand under his feet soaking into his boots or the horrible smells he endures or the nine month rainy seasons and the death of friends right in front of him – they will never be the same, people don’t understand. That’s why we’re marching,” added Hughes.

WalkforVets, formerly Buddy Watch Walk, began in 2019 as one man’s passion to raise awareness of the issues veterans face every day, which can ultimately cause them to give up.

It has now become the mission of four men.

John Ring started the trip on Tybee Island Pier in Georgia in 2019; then Jimmy Mathews joined him in Pearl, Mississippi; Jason Hanner in East Texas and Eli Hawkins in Tucson, Arizona.

In addition to suicide, the organization takes steps to raise awareness of the plight of veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (STD), addiction and homelessness.

“Our veterans are hurting,” John Ring said. “Their families are also suffering. I suffered from addiction issues. I understand the challenges they face and the strength it takes to overcome them.

“We must never forget our veterans and their experiences,” added Hughes.

During its 2021 legislative session, the Mississippi Senate dubbed October 29 Buddy Walk Watch Day in Magnolia State.

No matter what conditions groups have to march in or how many people show up, Hughes and other volunteers promise to keep marching and get people talking about taking more action to help veterans who suffer in silence.

“We want veterans to know that we’re here, that we care and – talk to someone first, don’t just walk by.”

If you or a veteran you know needs help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8355. Press 1.

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