Veterans walk to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Posted at 2:41 PM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:50-04

On Memorial Day, two veterans and their families walked 22 miles around the city of West to raise awareness about veteran suicide. 

For Victor Hernandez, doing the walk during this holiday has a special meaning. 

"Since it's a day that we remember other veterans that we've lost, we tend to isolate ourselves. This is bringing [us] out of [our] comfort zone a little and bring awareness to other veterans so they come out of that shell,” Victor said.

When News Channel 25 spoke with him, he was four miles away from finishing the 22 miles.

"My legs are tired. They're almost giving out, but I'm not giving up,” Hernandez said.

According to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Analysis of Veteran suicide, based on 2012 data, the estimated number of veteran deaths due to suicide averaged 22 per day. In 2014, an analysis indicated an average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day. 

Benjamin Hernandez, who served in the military for 1987 through 1991, walked for part of the eight-hour journey. The veteran, who served in the Gulf War, said he almost became part of that statistic.

“Those memories come back to me. It hurts. Right now, I'm shaking because I already think what I tried to do with my life. I tried to end my life and that was the wrong thing to do,” Benjamin said.

During the walk, the Hernandez family is also promoting a nonprofit organization that aims to fight suicide among veterans. Lift for the 22 gives veterans a one-year-gym membership for free to allow them to have an outlet and be connected with a peer-to-peer support network of veterans. The network aims to allow veterans to assist one another to transition from the military.

Victor started receiving that membership four months ago.

"Once the veteran gets out to the gym, they join with other veterans, which that right there, veteran talking to another veteran helps out greatly,” Victor said.

Benjamin is now considering joining that program. He said the support from others helped him after he tried to commit suicide two years ago.

"Family, family helped. Other soldiers have helped. That's why I want to help others also because I've been helped by other people too," Benjamin said.

The 48-year-old added post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t go away, but there are ways to handle it.

If you are a veteran in crisis or you have a family member in crisis, you can contact the Veteran Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255. For more information, you can visit this website.

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