GLENVILLE, WV – Over the past few weekends, several Glenville State College staff and students, many of them veterans themselves, have taken part in marches designed to raise awareness about a serious issue – veteran suicide.
Organized by U.S. Army veteran Brad McDaniel, the RUCK 22 WV event was a 22-mile road march that traversed the mountains of southern West Virginia. The number of miles in the trek was symbolic – 22 being the average number of veterans who take their own lives each day. Participants also carried 22 pounds on their backs during the march.
From Glenville State, students Jacob and MacKenzie Petry and GSC Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Wenwen Du decided to take part in the march scheduled for Saturday, September 5 near Glen Jean, West Virginia.
Before coming to Glenville State College, MacKenzie attended the U.S. Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia and worked as a parachute rigger. It was there that she also met her fiancée, Jacob. After a training injury caused her to be medically discharged, she and Jacob, now married, found themselves at Glenville State College.
“I wanted to participate because I’m proud of our Armed Forces, and veteran suicide is something that I care deeply about. Statistically, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. One person is too many…22 is a catastrophe. In the few short years that I served in the Army, many people that I knew, and even became friends with, took their own lives. I still think about them often and wonder how I could have helped,” Jacob said. “Symbolically rucking 22 miles while carrying 22 items or 22 pounds of items to donate is the least I could do. I, along with all fellow veterans, want to let those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide know – you are not alone.”
Du says that he learned about the event from Petry, one of his students. “Jacob shared a lot of information with me about the event. It was an easy decision to me since it is a great honor to respect and support our veterans,” Du said. “It also reminds me that many veterans could use assistance from our community to help them to reduce suicide rates and adjust back to society.”
Most of the items participants carried with them during the march were donated to a homeless veteran shelter in Asheville, North Carolina. Additionally, over $6,500 was donated to Mission 22, another non-profit organization aimed at helping veterans.
The following weekend, another Glenville State student and West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) soldier, Jacob Price, took part in a separate event alongside his unit, the 201st Alpha Battery.
Price says he joined the WVNG to serve his community and help pay for college, and he sees the struggles some veterans face. “I think it’s important to bring awareness to many different issues facing veterans because most Americans don’t see the picture of soldiers after they come back from combat, all they see are patriotic heroes who defend our country – which is partly true, but not the whole truth. Veterans need to be more at the forefront of politics and taken care of, prioritized actually,” he said.
If you are a veteran who is having thoughts of suicide – or if you are concerned about one – free, confidential support is available 24/7 through the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255 or via online chat atwww.VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.