Ruck marchers show camaraderie to prevent veteran suicides

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Veterans and non-veteran supporters carried their rucks and marched around Madison Saturday, to raise awareness for veteran suicides and send a message of hope.

Kerry McAllen carries a ruck for the walk to prevent veteran suicides.

In its fourth year, Operation Ruck 22 fundraised for four local beneficiaries: Back to Basic Training, Cover Me Veterans, Connected Warriors and Pets for Vets. The organizations help veterans’ well-being in their readjustment to life at home.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Wisconsin saw 132 veteran suicides in 2016. That year, there were 6,079 veteran suicides across the nation.

“We don't want to see anymore veterans lose their fight with their inner demons,” Kerry McAllen, the president of Operation Ruck 22, said. “We don't want to see our fellow veterans suffer.”

The 22-mile walk began at VFW Post 8483 and ended at VFW Post 7591 on Cottage Grove Road.

Organized into groups, many of the participants said they felt a spirit of camaraderie. Logan White walked alongside his Air Force ROTC unit from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I think having the unit together, it all makes it a little bit more bearable,” he said. “If we were doing this by ourselves it would probably be brutal, and you wouldn't be able to complete it.”

According to McAllen, sales and donations have exceeded $10,000 dollars, surpassing the goal.

If you know a veteran who might be struggling, call the veterans crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.