6th annual Big Lick Ruck March focuses on raising awareness for veteran suicide

Published: May. 21, 2022 at 5:52 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Veterans and community members packed up their bags and laced up their shoes for an almost 10-mile ruck march through Roanoke Saturday. The event aims to raise awareness of veteran suicide.

“We can just talk like we’re doing now, but it’s not comfortable for everybody. But you bring people out to events like this, you bring people out to events that matter for the community and it really grows the comfort of being able to say I’m not well, I’m not okay,” said Mark Shelton, a veteran who organized this year’s march.

The group started at VFW Post 1264, headed downtown to Big Lick Brewing Company for a drink, then marched back. The Big Lick Ruck March also brings area veterans’ organizations together, giving the veterans a chance to see the resources that are available.

“Bringing them into one space just helps kind of get the word out, and gets people interested, and gets the motor going, gets people driven to see a change in their mental health and see a change in the thoughts they’re having. Because I know when I got out, it was very difficult to feel like I was a part of a team,” said Shelton.

“It’s such an important thing for us to be able to connect with folks, and give them a sense of that community and camaraderie again and be able to unite people with a common goal,” said DeAnna Schuler, co-captain of the Team RWB Roanoke Chapter.

A sense of community is exactly what was on display, as the group connected through exercise, good conversation and a few drinks. Though the march is over, the work continues to raise awareness for veteran suicide every day.

“Make sure that you’re checking in on your buddies. If you have someone in the military that you know, contact them and just check on them,” said Shelton.

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