Annual 22-to-Zero Ruck aims to combat veteran suicide, will take place Saturday

22-to-Zero Ruck
22-to-Zero Ruck(WCTV)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 10:14 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - An annual event that aims to combat veteran suicide, falling right in the middle of the holiday season, the 22-to-Zero Ruck works to raise awareness, and more importantly, let people know they are not alone.

This year, despite the ongoing pandemic, organizers say plans are marching on because it’s not something that can wait, especially this year.

With the added isolation the pandemic has caused, those struggling with depression and PTSD need it more than ever.

“On average, around 22 veterans decide to take their lives every day,” said organizer John Pantoja. “A lot of us that do this walk, we’ve lost somebody or several people.”

It’s a personal event for many who join, like USMC vet, Jamie Hurtado.

“When I got out of the Marine Corps, a few of my friends committed suicide and I didn’t want to see that anymore,” Hurtado told WCTV.

It is also deeply meaningful for Daniel Desmond, whose wife, Katie, died by suicide five years ago on December 2.

“She was a specialist in the United States Army and a multi-tour combat veteran deployed numerous times to Iraq,” Desmond said. “I’m in it to make sure we don’t have to go through what I went through and we don’t lose anymore.”

The 22-to-Zero Ruck consists of a two mile walk around Cascades Park, followed by 14-miles with weighted “ruck sacks.”

It builds camaraderie among friends, raises awareness about the issue and exists to ensure others know there are people who care.

Their shirts, donning a colon and the “IGY 6″ logo, which organizers also proudly wear on their literal sleeve, translates to choose to continue on: “I’ve got your back.”

“If you’re struggling right now, somebody has your six. Let us know. We’ll always be there,” Pantoja said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Dozens of people are expected at the walk on Saturday, and it costs only $5 to participate.

The group will meet at the Korean War Memorial at Cascades Park around 8 a.m. Patriotic clothing is encouraged. You can register for the Ruck online, here.

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