MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Two combat medics who recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan plan to march 23 miles with other veterans through Minneapolis and St. Paul Friday to raise awareness that nearly two dozen soldiers die each day by suicide.
Organizers Landon Steele and James Blumenschein, who served together as combat medics in the Middle East, came up with the idea for the march – called Ruck Up For Life — after seeing two police officers walk to raise money for an ATV, a press release said.
Of the 160 troops in Steele and Blumenschein’s unit, five have committed suicide. It’s a big problem, Steele says. “It’s coming to the point,” he added, “where I know more troops who died by suicide than killed in action.” The press release said a total of 23 soldiers and veterans die by suicide each day.
Funds raised by the march will go to Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit that works to curb suicide attempts among soldiers and veterans. The dozens of veterans taking part will wear their battle dress uniform and gear-filled backpacks weighing up to 35 pounds.
The march is slated to start at 9 a.m. at the VFW on Lakeshore Drive South in Richfield, then it goes to the State Capitol in Saint Paul before ending at the VFW in Uptown Minneapolis.
Here’s a map of the march.