Hike for the 22 set for April 25

Event to highlight veteran suicide awareness, prevention

By Kevin Spradlin

* ‘Either I shoot guns or I draw’
Area vets rally for PTSD awareness
* New challenge highlights PTSD struggles

Enough is enough.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Brandon Parrish figured a quiet, out-of-the-way event intended to bring attention to the epidemic that is the suicide rate among America’s military veterans would be counterproductive.

Instead, Parrish wants to create a spectacle. He wants to bring a bit of craziness to a problem that has reached insane proportions. Through 22 until None, a nonprofit organized aimed at stamping

Submitted photo The Hike for 22 in Warrenton, Va., was a success, with more than 200 participants.

Submitted photo
The Hike for 22 in Warrenton, Va., was a success, with more than 200 participants.

“A dramatic display to make an important statement,” local veterans advocate Patricia Davis said of Parrish and his involvement in John Popowich’s 2014 waterboarding and macing event at VFW Post 4203 in Rockingham.

That event, though, was held out of the limelight and off the beaten path. For Parrish’s next event, he and his company will be going right down Main Street.

Beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, Parrish and his 22 until None nonprofit agency that aims to eliminate the number of suicides by military veterans — an epidemic that takes the lives of a reported 8,030 veterans each year — will gather at Cole Auditorium on the campus of Richmond Community College and march approximately 4.7 miles down Highway Business 74 to VFW Post 4203. After a break, they’ll march back.

Parrish said he considered other locations, such as the Hitchcock Creek Greenway trail at Steele Street. But no one would see them, he said.

“I want to make it known,” Parrish said, “like the waterboard challenge. We wanted to do something crazy so people would pay attention. If a bunch of vets are walking by with flags, people are gonna start asking questions.”

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Not in the shadows. Not on the sidewalks. In the roadway, accompanied by six Richmond County Sheriff’s Office deputies in patrol cars. On the Facebook event page, 61 people have indicated they’re going. Parrish is hopeful they show up and, if social media threads are any indication, the crowd could be much bigger.

“Rucks are optional,” Parrish said of military style backpacks. “If you wanna carry 150 pounds or if you wanna carry 20 pounds.”

There is no weight check. There is no uniform inspection. Parrish, a Hoffman area resident, said some people carry 22 pounds in their rucks to represent the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day. The march is for veterans and civilians alike, and participants can wear combat boots or sneakers or other appropriate footwear.

Parrish himself plans on carrying 75 pounds.

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

“This is my home town,” he said, “and it’s only 75 pounds. I want to lead from the front.”

From the 22 until None website: With this epidemic running through our ranks of veterans, we need to take a stand as a team. We are currently attending events and in the near future we would like to start hosting events to help our veterans in every way possible. We are currently offering emergency financial assistance, VA benefits help, help transitioning, advocacy, wellness services, camaraderie, and a 24/7 crisis hotline. We need your help to make this happen. We need any kind of donations, money, household goods, canned foods, hygiene products, bedding, gift cards, and volunteers. We ask you to take a stand and help us bring this number to zero! We can only do this as a team, so join us and it will happen. These numbers are hard to swallow and unacceptable.

Enter people like Parrish, a longtime advocate of PTSD awareness — he struggles with it himself — and a recently appointed 22 until None board member. Parrish participated in a similar march in Warrenton, Va. He knew right away he had to bring something like that to his home town.

Brandon Parrish

Brandon Parrish

After the march to VFW Post 4203 and back to Cole Auditorium, those who desire can choose to participate in clay shooting at DeWitt’s Outdoor Sports near Ellerbe. Owner Chris DeWitt has offered the group a special discount. Parrish said they’ll also have

Parrish said the idea is for veterans to have the opportunity to socialize with like-minded individuals. At a 22 until None event in Arizona, Parrish said there was one “vet “that was very close to being one of the 22.”

During the event, though, that veteran “opened up to one of our board members.”

Parrish isn’t concerned about the numbers who participate. It could be just him, or the 61 who have indicated on Facebook they’ll march. Or 600. But North Carolina has Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.

“Why not do it in North Carolina,” Parrish asked rhetorically. “We don’t care if we have 12 or if we have 400. Whoever wants to come out and wants to be a part of it … (will) get something out of it.”



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