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    National Guard Soldier Volunteers for Veteran Suicide Awareness

    NYNG Members Participate in Suicide Awareness Marathon

    Photo By Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna | New York National Guard Maj. Charles Sanders, assigned to 53rd Troop Command HHD,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna 

    New York National Guard

    SOUTHOLD, N.Y. -- New York Army National Guard Maj. Charles Sanders, a combat veteran and commander of the 53rd Troop Command Headquarters Detachment, volunteered his time and energy recently to bring attention to veteran suicide awareness, hiking 22-miles across Long Island, N.Y., Sept. 18, 2021.

    Sanders helped organize and then participated in the Walk4Valor & Run4Life events, combining his passion for personal fitness and supporting veterans, he said.

    Sanders is a member of American Legion Post 803 in Southhold, and was approached earlier in the year to help organize the fundraiser.

    Inspired by his multiple deployments to Afghanistan, he said he was happy to help anything that supports veterans.

    “I want to encourage positive events that highlight the good work that people have done,” said Sanders. “If everyone did something like this every once in a while it would make Soldiers’ lives a lot better.”

    “I encouraged them to (also) do a 5k run,” Sanders said. “I thought it would get more people involved.”

    The purpose of the events raises awareness and funding to honor fallen military and supports the children of military families through educational scholarships. Walkers and runners pay a $30 participation fee.

    The importance of the 22 miles symbolizes the 22 veterans that were estimated in 2010 who took their lives every day. Participants also had the option to ruck carrying a 22-pound pack.

    Efforts over the past decade for awareness, support and resources for veterans has seen a steady decline in veterans suicide to about 17 a day, according to a 2019 Veterans Administration Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

    The Run4Life five-kilometer run took place from the Veterans Memorial Park in Wading River to the Grumman Memorial Park in Calverton, adjacent to the National Cemetery.

    The Walk4Life started at American Legion Post 803 in Southold and ended 22 miles later at the same finish at Grumman Memorial Park.

    “We ended up doing 24-miles instead of 22,” Sanders said. “It was great and exhausting.”

    Sanders accompanied 40 other participants, including veterans, civilians, military family members and other service personnel. The effort was able to raise nearly $20,000, Sanders said.

    The event is the second annual effort, according to the Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Chad Lennon, the founder of Walk4Valor and Run4Life in 2020.

    Lennon said he started the event last year when he noticed the increase of veteran suicides during the pandemic.

    Since 2001 more than 100,000 veterans have been lost to suicide, he said.

    “I wanted to do something that was very physically challenging to raise money and awareness,” Lennon said. “Two great events, one great cause.”

    Long Island has a large concentration of veterans, with an estimate that more than 112,000 live in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

    For 2021, Lennon enlisted the support of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, and Veterans Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Flag to expand the events and make them more accessible and visible to a wider audience that wanted to help.

    The VA Suicide Prevention Program promotes the protective factors that can offset risk, such as positive coping skills and feeling connected to other people. Events like Walk4Valor and Run4Life bring people together to build resiliency, Sanders said.

    “This was a no-brainer for me to join,” said Sanders. “We’re doing positive things for veterans and we’re working out.”



    Date Taken: 09.18.2021
    Date Posted: 09.24.2021 15:32
    Story ID: 406010
    Location: SOUTHOLD, NY, US 

    Web Views: 63
    Downloads: 0