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Walk4Valor, Run4Life events Sept. 18 to raise awareness of veteran suicide

The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation, with the support of Southold American Legion, will host Walk4Valor and Run4Life events Saturday, Sept. 18, to build awareness of veteran suicide rates and support for its prevention. 

Walk4Valor is a 22-mile walk starting in Southold at the American Legion and ending at Grumman Memorial Park in Calverton. The 22 miles represent the 22 veterans who die daily of suicide.

Run4Life is a 5K that will take place at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. This is the first year the foundation is hosting Run4life and the second year they’re hosting Walk4Valor.

Both events can be attended either virtually or in-person. Those interested in participating can register online at actofvaloraward.org. Registration for either event in either format is $30 and proceeds will go to the foundation’s scholarship fund for children of military families and spouses. Last year, the foundation awarded over $12,000 in tuition assistance to qualifying applicants. It hopes to raise $20,000 this year.

Veteran suicide is an epidemic that has plagued the armed forces for many decades. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014 revealed that an average of 20 veterans a day died from suicide.

“We represent the 37 baseball Hall of Famers that served in World War II,” said foundation president and founder Peter Fertia, adding that the organization’s goal is to educate today’s youth about commitment and duty to the country.

Chad Lennon, a Marine Corps major in the reserves and an Afghanistan war veteran, has tried to bring awareness to the invisible struggle these veterans face by testing his own limits physically. He will lead both the 22-mile hike and the 5Kwhile carrying a 22-pound pack on his back.

“My thought is, by physically pushing myself as far as I could possibly go, I’m trying to show them that they can keep going too, for the ones that are really struggling.” Maj. Lennon said.

Two years ago, he pulled a 400-pound chain for one mile to bring awareness to this issue and last year he did a 66-mile hike. 

Charles Sanders, commander of Southold American Legion, will also participate in the hike while carrying a pack weighing 22 pounds.

He hopes these events inspire the community to be more proactive in dealing with this complex issue and supporting similar events and organizations.

“The main thing is, I want to get the community away from being Facebook pundits and be more proactive and do something that’s actually going to help veterans,” Mr. Sanders said.

Anyone who can’t participate can still donate at actofvaloraward.org.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (en Español: 888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 800-799-4889) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.