Madison-area group, mom holds ruck march for veteran suicide awareness

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - A Madison-area group is raising awareness for veteran suicide.

Operation Ruck 22 holds an annual march for the cause.

One mother helping plan the event tells NBC15 News she wants to be a voice for soldiers who are struggling.

“Since Evan was very young, he’s always been interested in the army,” Juli Olson, a Waunakee resident said.

Olson is proud of her 23-year-old son, Evan.

“We knew he was eventually he was going to do something in the military,” Olson said.

Following in the footsteps of two uncles who served in World War Two, Evan joined the Army National Guard in 2015, and spent about a year in Afghanistan from 2018-2019. “He was home for about a year, and it was a rough year,” Olson said.

Between life changes during the pandemic and returning home, Evan struggled with his mental health and had difficulty finding a face-to-face counselor.

“I’m not sure what happened over there, but he was just really depressed, he had a really hard time,” Olson said.

After struggling for nearly a year, Evan died by suicide on Dec. 12, 2020.

Evan was one of four soldiers in his unit to take his own life over five months.

“So many of our veterans are coming back and they’re battling demons we just don’t understand,” Taryn Lindemann, Vice President for Operation Ruck 22 said.

For the last six years, Lindemann has tried to raise awareness about the, on average, 22 veterans who take their lives each day through a 22-kilometer ruck march.

“I want to make sure that those family and friends are taken care of and as we continue to work together as an entire nation, the fewer people that are committing suicide or know that they have some sort of help out there, the better,” Lindemann said.

Olson will be at Saturday’s ruck. Her vow: to help heroes like Evan enjoy life.

“These young men and women took an oath to protect us, we need to protect them as well,” Olson.

The ruck 22 walk starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 at VFW Post 7591 in Madison, along Cottage Grove Road. The group will march around Lake Monona.

A celebration will follow to raise funds for three organizations supporting veterans returning home.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, and press 1.

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