Editor's note: Help is available, please visit Suicide.org or call 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK immediately.
An estimated average of 22 United States veterans are lost to suicide every day.
As a part of National Suicide Awareness Month, several organizations dedicated to providing veterans with services and assistance in the Davis area are working to bring awareness to the high rate of veteran suicides this month.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sep. 21 at the Sulphur Veterans Center, individuals are invited to come out for free food, live music by the David Chamberlain Band, mini activities and most importantly to get a tiny glimpse of what it’s like to be a veteran and walk 2.2 miles in their shoes or combat boots, said event organizer Kelly King.
King works with veterans regularly through Flames to Hope Equine Assisted Services, one of the three organizations partnering to host the event. The other two are Changing Course Foundation and Beyond Brotherhood.
Wearing combat boots is optional, but serves a stronger, metaphorical purpose, King said.
“We’ve had a number of veterans that have come out and just tell us how much in awe they are of this walk and how much it means to them to see people, especially walking in combat boots,” King said.
For the fourth annual “Walk a Mile in Our Boots”, individuals will be walking 1.1 miles from the veterans center on Veterans Trail, which runs through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, and another 1.1 miles back, King said. “We try to pick venues that are similar to what a veteran would walk in boot camp or before they’re deployed.”
By hosting the event at the veterans center this year King said she also hopes to reach the older generations of veterans, who are often at a higher risk for suicide. Events like the walk help inform veterans of resources available to them and remind them that they are loved, she said.
“We lose on average of 22 veterans to suicide everyday. I feel like that number should be zero and I think a lot of people would agree,” King said. “One way to bring it down is to bring awareness to it and show our veterans ‘Hey, your lives matter. There are people out there that do care about you and organizations that are here to help.’”
King, whose husband is a retired, disabled veteran, said veterans often struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma from being deployed and going to war; which can make transitioning back into civilian life very difficult.
“They’re trying to communicate with people that don’t communicate the way that they’ve been taught to communicate with each other and it’s almost like culture shock,” King said.
The walk can also be therapeutic for those who have lost their loved ones in combat, King said.
“We had one lady who is actually a golden star wife, whose husband had been killed in combat,” King said. “So to come here and walk with us, it’s healing for her, I think, to be around people who feel what she’s gone through.”
There were many tears shed during last year’s event, King said. However, the hosting organizations are seeking to bring a more positive light to the walk in 2019.
“This year we wanted it to be upbeat and positive and really give them something to look forward to,” King said. “Where we hope to go with this long term is to bring a lot of veterans organizations together to show them that there’s a lot of organizations, there’s a lot of support out here for you.”
For more information about the event contact Kelly King at 405-924-4380.