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Walk serves as memorial for soldier suicides

While many people are familiar with the reality of the millions of Americans who lose their lives in foreign lands in times of war, the number of veterans who lose their lives at home is also significant. To raise awareness for these fallen, Operation 22 and the national Military Veteran Project are partnering for a local 22-mile walk Nov. 9.

Every day, 22 soldiers lose their battles to suicide following trauma they experienced. When Franklin County veterans Caleb Thompson and Cody Bragwell learned this, Thompson said they knew they wanted to do something to raise awareness.

“For me, it was more about being able to help the cause and being able to raise money for something that’s a big issue,” Thompson said.

This will be the second year for the local 22-mile walk, which will span from Southside Baptist Church in Russellville to Harley Davidson in Tuscumbia. Participants will take rest stops along the way, accompanied by a military truck with water following behind and a police escort in front.

Melissa Jarboe, founder and CEO of Military Veteran Project, said every mile there will be a pair of boots from a soldier who lost his or her life to military suicide.

“Every mile is memorial of a man or woman who lost their battle to suicide on American soil,” Jarboe said.

The boots will be from soldiers around the area or from soldiers who have family or friends around the area. Most boots will include a picture and a biography, if the family supplies one.

“It’s really a tribute to the fallen and the forgotten of the 22 men and women who lose their lives to military suicide,” Jarboe said.

The walk will traverse the 22 miles to Harley Davidson. At Harley Davidson, inflatables and music will be offered for people who are not interested in walking to enjoy and to show their support. Musicians will include Andrew Garner, Lori Lovelace, Yvette Bolen and Zean Otey.

Thompson said there is no charge for people to walk, but people can pledge a dollar a mile to raise money or purchase shirts for $25.

Thompson said they are also working to add a memorial bike ride. 

For more information or to donate, visit the Operation 22 Facebook page.