LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Every year, Terry Sharpe walks from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of veteran suicides. He’s known as The Walking Marine.
According to the department of veterans affairs, 22 veterans take their lives every day.
On Friday, Sharpe passed through Lynchburg and greeted supporters at Monument Terrace, where a weekly rally takes place in support of the troops.
“Spread awareness to the fact that we are losing 22 veterans to suicide every day,” said Sharpe, explaining why he walks.
He treks about 300 miles from his home in Stokesville, North Carolina to D.C. to encourage loved ones of veterans to look out for warning signs of suicide.
“Hopefully within the family and the friends will see things going on with that veteran, will try to intervene and get them help.”
Army veteran Jessica McClure presented a check from her VFW for a symbolic amount of $220 to support his cause, which is close to her heart.
“Even recently I found out someone I was close to and worked with and learned a lot from struggled with his demons and took his life,” said McClure.
She sees Sharpe as an inspiration: someone trying to normalize seeking help for post-traumatic stress and other mental illnesses.
“The more that we’re able to break those stigmas down,” said McClure, “the more people will be willing to get the help that they need.”
“Check on your veterans,” said Sharpe. “Just check. If you’ve got veterans in your family, check on them. Talk to them. See where they’re at. If they seem like they’re having a hard time, get them help.”
Most years, Sharpe plans the walk during the month of May and tries to make the trek in 22 days, to symbolize the 22 daily veteran suicides.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic delayed the walk, and the heat is slowing him down. He plans to get to D.C. in 24 days instead of 22 days, with an estimated arrival date of July 24th.
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