Walk To Bring Awareness Of Veteran Suicide Epidemic

Looking to shine light on the dark statistics of veteran suicide and to raise money to help veterans with post-traumatic stress, more than 200 participants so far have pledged to walk 22-kilometers down the Jersey Shore on September 22, 2018 and have raised more than $28,000 as part of the Operation Ruck It event.

Ocean County-based veterans nonprofit Ma Deuce Deuce (Ma22) is hosting Operation Ruck It, which will step off from the Brick VFW Post on Adamston Road in Brick around 7:30 a.m. that morning and head to the barrier island and back for a ruck walk. The term “ruck,” hump or military march generally refers to a long walk or jaunt while carrying your ruck sack, and many participants will be representing the different branches of military as part of Operation Ruck It – whether in their camos or carrying flags.

“This is a FUNdraiser. We are not an Ironman or a Spartan race. We encourage all to start and finish together but we also want everyone to have a part in our event. Some are finishing early, some starting late. The entire Ruck is 13.6 miles. Walk one, five, or 13.6 miles, we just want you to come!” said Ma22 President Dennis Addesso.

While the theme is to ruck and some participants do choose to weigh their ruck sack with 22 pounds as a symbol of the on average 22 veterans a day who commit suicide, it’s not a requirement to participate. Those who sign up can walk any length of the 22-kilometer course, which loops back to the Brick VFW as its finish line.

“No one will be left behind — we have support vehicles, EMTs and several water and comfort stations along the route planned, and welcome anyone who has opened their hearts to our cause to come participate and ruck the Jersey Shore with us!” said Tom Kiselow, Ma22 board member and organizer for Operation Ruck It.

Ma22 works to raise awareness of the veteran suicide epidemic and to connect veterans with restorative resources at no cost to them. “We aim to restore the hearts of those veterans facing depression, anxiety, stress and isolation, suicidal thoughts and trauma from post-traumatic stress,” said Kiselow, who is a Marine veteran.

Some of the recent Ma22 initiatives: a special fitness workout and seminar in-person with WWE superstar Diamond Dallas Page; fishing, kayaking and scuba diving for veterans; but also linking veterans to send to Operation Restored Warrior, a 5-day, intensive restorative program that most of the Ma22 board members are also alumni of.

“Operation Restored Warrior is the nonprofit that turned it around for me as well as most of our staff. It feels great to give back to them after they showed me the way to get my heart back, restoring my marriage and my relationship with my daughters, and later a focused mind to enjoy my career,” said Addesso, who is also a Marine veteran.

With Operation Ruck It on September 22, 2018, participants will be directly contributing to Ma22 organization to achieve its mission and provide more opportunities for veterans with PTSD, but they can also foster camaraderie among veterans and their supporters.

The cost to register is $22, but more than 75 teams have also signed up to participate. The day ends with a finish line celebration and awards ceremony back at the Brick VFW picnic grove.

Those interested in participating can sign up online or register day of before 7:30 a.m. Sept. 22 at the Brick VFW Post picnic grove, 373 Adamston Road in Brick. Volunteers are also needed to help as support staff; contact ma22secretary@gmail.com to volunteer.

To sign up, visit https://fundrazr.com/Ma22ruckit.

For more information, email madeucedeuce@gmail.com.

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