“The Big Lick Ruck” event brings awareness to military veteran suicides

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — This Saturday is the “The Big Lick Ruck” event, which brings awareness to military veteran suicides.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says an average of 22 military veterans commit suicide each day. This is a growing problem the VA would like to curb.

There is one local veteran holding an event this weekend to bring awareness to this serious issue.

Roanoke native Mark Shelton severed in the military for 5 years. When he got out of the military in August 2015, he thought he would be okay.

However, in October 2015, that changed with a night of drinking to dull the pain of being lonely, figuring out what he wanted to do after being out of the military, he says. The option of suicide got into his mind that night.

“I got home and got into a fight with a family member. I walked to a bridge and got on the edge. I finally convinced myself to get down and as soon as I started to walk back home, a police officer pulled up behind me,” said Shelton. “He said, ‘come with me,’ and I said, ‘no I am going home.’ He said, ‘you can come with me or I will put you in cuffs,’ so he took me to the VA. I stayed the night there and I sobered up.”

After that night, Shelton decide to make it his mission to bring awareness to military suicides. One way he is doing that is with The Big Lick Ruck event at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 8 at Roanoke’s Wasena Park.

“I am sticking with the number 22. That is what people realize is the problem and we put a focus into solving the issue of veterans suicides. I really started pushing to get awareness. But not just awareness we want to build the network to get veterans to team up with each other, so we can lean on each other with mental health support to keep the suicide number down here at home,” said Shelton. “I think what happens is people they get home and they go from a tight knit group and they get thrown back home and thrown into state they live after service. They have trouble finding that group that has the same issues. I talk to a lot of veterans. There are more people out there than we think that struggle with suicidal thoughts and suicidal issues, depression and anxiety, and mental health disorders, you name it. At any time, there is going to be a veteran where their life is in crisis or in your life probably.”

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