BARLING, Ark. — Every day, family and friends mourn the loss of 22 veterans who take their own life. In a year, more than 8,000 veterans succumb to suicide.
On Tuesday, February 22, Operation Tears of the 22 will host their first-ever 22K ruck march, remembering and honoring the lives of veterans struggling with mental health.
Members of surrounding police and fire departments and veterans and their families and friends will take part in a five-mile, five-lap march – 22K – throughout Fort Chaffee while carrying rucksacks weighing 22 pounds.
Matt Gillespie, the founder of Operation Tears of the 22, knows the march will be grueling and asks the community to support those participating. "People being out there and just waving at 'em, you know, and simply saying 'hi' as they go by…telling them they're doing a good job, you know, that means so much. Those little boosts mean so much to us," said Gillespie.
There is a stigma surrounding mental health and suicide, especially for veterans—some of the bravest and strongest men and women from across the nation battle a silent fight.
Gillespie hopes Tuesday's march will help erase this stigma and bring help to those who need it most.
"It takes everybody to save one, and if we can do it one at a time and if we can save just one, we're going to call it a mission success," said Gillespie.
In Boise, Idaho, another veteran who served with Gillespie was inspired by what Gillespie is doing and will host the same march at the same time. Gillespie says he is moved by the support and hopes the demonstrations in Fort Chaffee and Idaho will spark more rallies and help open more chapters of Operation Tears of the 22 across the country.
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