Veteran suicides: Local RuckUp walk seeks to raise awareness

From left: Steven Bass, of the Defense Contract Management Agency at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with Keith Bowman and Carol Bryant, engineers from the Air Force Research Laboratory. Bryant is also an ambassador for Horses for Heroes. CONTRIBUTED

caption arrowCaption
From left: Steven Bass, of the Defense Contract Management Agency at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with Keith Bowman and Carol Bryant, engineers from the Air Force Research Laboratory. Bryant is also an ambassador for Horses for Heroes. CONTRIBUTED

Steven Bass, who works at the Defense Contract Management Agency at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, lost one of his friends last August to suicide.

“Civilians out here at the base have similar stories where military co-workers deploy, then come back ‘changed,’ ” said Bass. “It hits the military super hard, but base civilians aren’t immune to the effects.”

The third annual RuckUp22 brings awareness to the veterans who commit suicide.

The origin of RuckUp22 came from a question from someone with whom Bass served in the Army in December 2015: “Did you know we lose 22 brothers and sisters each day to suicide?”

Explore TRENDING: TODAY: ‘Presidential Alert’ text test scheduled for this afternoon

A 2013 VA study found about 22 veterans a day kill themselves. A 2017 study found it was about 20 veterans a day die from suicide.

“I knew it was high, however, at that point didn’t realize it was that far off the rails,” Bass said. “Then the conversation moved to what are we going to do about it? The original plan was to Ruck March from Ft. Campbell, Ky., to Ft. Knox, Ky., (130+ miles) under another event. So training began in January 2016.”

Bass found three people who would help them develop an interim event in the fall of 2016, which evolved into the RuckUp22 event, with all proceeds benefiting The Battle Buddy Foundation. The foundation assists veterans with various things from suicide prevention to service animals.

Explore TRENDING: “COMING HOME”: The historic Dayton Daily News front page that celebrated a hostage of 444 days leaving captivity

“We all trained for 10 months and it all worked out,” he said. “We held the event on Oct. 22, your ruck sack was recommended to weigh 22 pounds and the cost was $22.”

The following spring the organizers went their separate ways, Bass said.

“I posted to the RuckUp website that we would not be able to continue in its current state and how sorry we were,” he said. “That’s when Dr. Keith Bowman contacted me about taking on the facilitation of the RuckUp that year.”

Bowman has been at Wright-Patt since 1982 as a civilian, working in the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Explore TRENDING: 1900s-themed cocktail bar opening in Oregon District this week

“Spring of 2017, the organizers of the first event did not have the bandwidth to do a second event … too much work, too few volunteers,” said Bowman.

Bowman was supported by a group of highly motivated young officers from the base. Bass agreed and provided consultation while they took over the Facebook page and began planning for the second RuckUp22 in October 2017.

At the first RuckUp22, the coordinators offered up free RuckUp22 patches to the first 60 or so people.

“We continued that tradition for the second event,” said Bowman. “Everyone that registered got a patch, suitable for attaching to backpacks and rucksacks. We also provided a rucker’s bag for every participant with info on a few veteran charities and a pair of sunglasses with RuckUp22 printed on them. All promotional items and most of the food were provided by contributions from the volunteers … All of the $22 entry fee from each participant went to the Battle Buddy Foundation.”

Explore TRENDING: Las Vegas shooting: Victims remembered on 1-year anniversary of Route 91 Harvest festival

Bowman said he’s watched young officers leave the research lab over the years and get deployed overseas.

“It always bugged me seeing friends now put into harm’s way, and troubled me even more when they returned home, sometimes not wanting to discuss everything they experienced,” he said.

They will continue giving out patches and will give out window clings for participants to attach to their car windows. They will also provide a hand-out bag this year.

Contact contributing writer shirl54bel@gmail.com

HOW TO GO

What: RuckUp22 Walk for Veterans fundraiser for the Battle Buddy Foundation and Horses for Heroes (22 miles not mandatory). Drinks are provided by Dayton Island Drinks and Tropical Smoothie Cafe. More food donations wanted for the Waco and Kyle Park stops.

Where: Starting at the Taylorsville Dam in Vandalia, walking north to the WACO Air Museum in Troy, then return.

When: Saturday, Oct. 20

Cost: $22. Registration through Eventbee https://www.eventbee.com/v/ruckup22dayton/event?eid=187367125#/tickets) or onsite the day of the event.

Info: DaytonRuckUp22@gmail.com or https://www.facebook.com/ruckup22/


Explorehttps://www.facebook.com/ruckup22/

About the Author