- Helping Out Our American Heroes (HOOAH) of Wisconsin raised more than $200,000 at its 11th Veteran Suicide Awareness March on Saturday, according to organizers
- About 1,200 veterans, volunteers and friends attended the march, many walking 16.8 miles along the Fox River — one mile for each veteran lost to suicide per day, on average, in 2020
- Video shows the march and family of veterans giving personal testimonies
(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)
Veterans Day is a chance to celebrate those who served and returned home — but for some rucking and marching today, it's also a day to remember and raise awareness for those we've lost to veteran suicide.
"Each of these boots are so much more than a boot with a picture of a stranger on it," Barbara LuMaye said. "They are family."
LuMaye walks for her son, Jacob.
"Today we walk for those we love," LuMaye said. "We walk for those we lost. But most of all, we walk so that those we love will no longer be lost."
Kris Wery walks for her son's friends.
"During 2020, he lost four friends," Wery said. "We wear their names on our wrists."
They all walk 16.8 miles along the Fox River on Veterans Day — one mile for each veteran lost to suicide every day, on average in 2020.
"Those men risked their lives for us," Wery said. "So I like to make sure everybody is aware of that."
HOOAH Wisconsin's Veteran Suicide Awareness March raised more $200,000 by Saturday morning, more than $30,000 more than last year's march. Abby Huntley, who works with HOOAH in counseling, says talking about mental health has helped the organization raise awareness and veteran suicide rates to begin to decline.
"Let's keep a little extra in mind for those veterans who are fighting those silent battles that we don't know about," Huntley said. "They did those in order to keep each other safe."
LuMaye had one final message for the veterans at the march and beyond.
"If you're a veteran or anyone struggling with what you've been through, know that you are loved," she said. "You are needed. And you will be missed more than you can ever know."
The people here hope to one day come out to the Suicide Awareness March and walk zero miles — but for now they're happy with the progress of 22 miles walked in year one down to 16.8 miles in year 11.