Area Veterans Raising Mental Health and Suicide Awareness Through 22-Mile Backpack Walk

FALCONER, NY:– On May 22, 2022 area veterans walked 22 miles with 50-pound rucksacks to help raise funds and awareness related to veteran suicide and mental health. The veterans included: Kelly Carpenter, David Dunn and Mark Weaver who are active shooter response training instructors for Strong Tactics.

Carpenter served as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps from 2006-2012. He was deployed to Afghanistan from 2010 – 2011.

“Since 2011, I have known four marines that did not deserve to die,” said Carpenter. “This is why we are trying to raise awareness, breaking the stigma that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can control your life. We are out here to help any veteran in need.”

Dunn, is a 10-year United States Army veteran with one deployment to Baghdad from 2004 – 2005.

“I have been navigating PTSD and suicidal thoughts since 2006, and have learned to cope with PTSD by surrounding myself with people that care and through the study of martial arts,” said Dunn. “I am tired of seeing my brothers and sisters in arms feel like they do not have anyone to care for them. We want to bring awareness to both the veterans suffering and to the masses that there is help for them, there is hope.”

Weaver, a United States Army veteran ranger said, “I had numerous deployments and experiences with PTSD. I am participating in this event because I have lost people to suicide and want to remind those who are struggling that there is hope and people who understand. You are not alone.”

According to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report from the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention on September 2021, “From 2001 to 2019, the Veteran population decreased 23.1%, from 25.7 million in 2001 to 19.8 million in 2019. In comparison, the suicide rate among veterans rose 35.9% from 2001 to 2019, from 23.3 per 100,000 in 2001 to 31.6 per 100,000 in 2019.

Dunn said, “These men and women have already made numerous sacrifices to help ensure everyone’s freedom, to then return home and struggle with invisible wounds that haunt them until they can no longer fight.”

If you have questions or if you would like to donate to this cause, please call 716-969-9653 or 716-397-2632. Mailed in donations can be addressed to Henry Mosher Post 638, 132 N. Main Street, Falconer NY 14733. There is a live Facebook fundraiser titled, “Kelly’s fundraiser for Stop the 22!” and a GofundMe found at, https://gofund.me/7e5a20ee. Supporting suicide prevention agencies who will be attending the event with resources and information include: The Suicide Prevention Alliance of Chautauqua County, Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, The NEIGH Program, Team Amvet’s Suicide Prevention, and Buffalo VA Suicide Prevention.

If you are experiencing a crisis, contact the 24/7 Chautauqua County Crisis Hotline at 1-800-724-0461, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

If you are struggling from the loss of a loved one to suicide, there is a local support group every second and fourth Tuesday of each month. It is held at The Chautauqua Center in Jamestown from 5:30 -7 pm If you would like more information about the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Chautauqua County or would like to make a monetary contribution or find out more about how you can volunteer to assist with upcoming events, please go to www.preventsuicidechq.com.

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