23-mile march to St. Paul aims to raise awareness about veteran suicides

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Veterans dressed in full combat gear marched 23 miles to the St. Paul Saturday to raise awareness about veteran suicides.

The 23 miles represent the approximately 23 veteran who die by suicide every day, the "Ruck Up for Life"event page notes.

“When I came back [from the tours], I struggled with depression and thought about suicide as well," Landon Steele, a veteran who organized the Ruck Up for Life march, told FOX 9.

"We want to bring the civilian community into our world. It is the war we fight when we come home,” Steele told KSTP.

Several hundred people completed the march, some carrying 40-pound rucksacks, reports note.

“It's more than just the walk,” Sgt. Kyle Gray of the Minnesota National Guard told FOX 9. “You feel like you have their weight on your shoulders.”

Sgt. Adam Codra, who was injured in Afghanistan, participated in the event in an effort to raise money for the EOD Warrior Foundation. (Click here for information on how to donate to his cause.)

“After I got blown up, my third surgery, I needed help with medical supplies that the VA wouldn’t give me,” Codra told WCCO. “The Warrior Foundation provided me with a bed, so I could get out of bed.”

Others who participated shared their stories on the event's Facebook page. One commenter, Rachel Robinson, called the march "very moving", noting everyone who participated brought awareness to many.

"A wonderful reminder that 'supporting our troops' means more than just in battles they face over seas, but also in battles they face once they return home. Thank you for your commitment and dedication working to serve and protect those who have served and protected our country," she added.

This was the third year of the march, reports note.

More on military suicides

The Department of Veterans Affairs published a report in 2013, finding 22 soldiers and military veterans take their own life every day in the United States. Since that report was published, additional reports have looked at military suicides. Here's some of what's been found:

  • The Washington Post provided some “missing context” for the 22 veterans a day figure.
  • PBS’ Frontline reported earlier this year on a study by JAMA Psychiatry, which found most soldiers who die by suicide were never deployed.
  • Another recent study, this one by the Annals of Epidemiology, looked at suicide among the 1.3 million who were on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, finding veterans “exhibit significantly higher suicide risk compared with the U.S. general population. However, deployment to the Iraq or Afghanistan war, by itself, was not associated with the excess suicide risk.”

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