(ROCKWALL, TX — June 24, 2019) On June 22, community members joined hands on the State Highway 66 bridge to raise awareness on suicides committed among our country’s military veterans and first responders.
In Oct. 2018, Third Watch LE Motorcycle Club started a Walk Across the Bridge movement to raise awareness and combat suicides among veterans and first responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The bridge walk, held on the 22nd of each month, has grown from 13 participants in October to an average of 90 participants each month.
As part of their bridge walk event this month, Third Watch LEMC invited folks to line the bridge, hold hands, and take a few minutes of silence to remember those veterans and first responders who committed suicide due to PTSD. The Hands Across the Bridge event saw more than 140 people span a third of the two-mile bridge in support of the cause.
Third Watch LEMC’s John Salerno, a 9/11 survivor and retired NYPD detective, said he was honored at the turnout for the event, and hopes they can make it halfway across the bridge for the next one.
“To see this amount of support from the community shows that people do care,” Salerno said. “And that eases the minds of our military veterans and first responders, knowing that all of these people are out here for them.
“What we want more than anything is for folks to hear our cry and help bring more awareness programs for our veterans and first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress. We can do more. We can wipe away that stigma of mental illness and put it as an injury to the brain. That’s why many don’t come forward, because they get that stigma of mental health, and nobody wants that. So, if we can change that to an injury, maybe more people will come forward and get the help that they need.”
So why the 22nd of each month? In 2013, a group of military veterans formed an initiative known as 22KILL. The initiative started as a result of a 2012 Veterans Administration report, which found that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day. At first, 22KILL began as a social media movement to raise awareness on suicides committed by veterans. In 2015, 22KILL became an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to combatting suicides by empowering veterans, first responders and their families through therapeutic programs. With its immense network of resources and organizations across the country, 22KILL aims to help veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD to find a sense of purpose again.
For more information on 22KILL, visit 22kill.com.
By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.