22 miles for 22 veterans

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BRATTLEBORO — For many locals, sleeping in on Saturday morning was traded in for a 22-mile walk.

The second 22-4-22 walk for veterans started outside of Brattleboro Union High School.

Lauren Mabie got interested in the issue of veteran suicide while serving in the military in Germany. She's not close with anyone who has PTSD, but when she heard a statistic from 2012 that 22 veterans a day commit suicide, she knew she had to do something. The walk raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project and awareness about

veteran suicide.

"It's tragic that we have people fighting on our behalf coming home and just feeling like there's no other way out," Mabie said. She wants the walk to help veterans know that when they come home they're appreciated.

"It's nice to be able to do something," Mabie said.

Mabie's mother, state Rep. Valerie Stuart, D-Windham-2-1, helps Mabie put on the event each year by advertising it in local media outlets and drawing from her contacts.

Twenty-five people walked from BUHS to the Putney Food Co-op on Saturday.

This year's walk had a local connection. Sgt. Charlotte Marcy committed suicide in 2016. Larry McIntosh, a veteran and friend to Marcy, asked Mabie if he could pass a photo of Marcy throughout the walk like a baton. She thought it was a great idea.

Marcy used to be a BUHS student. She went on several deployments to Iraq. During one deployment her vehicle was hit by an IED while she was inside. She came home with chronic back pain, according to Mabie. She used her love of horseback riding to combat the trauma she'd experienced while deployed.

"It's really meaningful that we have the chance to remember someone who went to high school right here," Mabie said.

Marcy was honored by multiple people at the walk. McIntosh wore a picture of Marcy around his neck. Other walkers had pictures of her on their backpacks or strapped to their dog's vest.

McIntosh and his friend Judith Stout, a former Brattleboro Retreat employee, said they were walking just to raise awareness.

"It's important for non-veterans to speak out to everyone that they should seek help for mental health and depression," Stout said. "Spend money on treatment, not guns."

McIntosh said he hopes to walk less next year because he wants to see fewer veteran suicides.

The rate of veteran suicides has dropped. A 2016 study found that 20 veterans die from suicide per day, according to an article published in the Military Times.

John Hagen, the commander of the Brattleboro American Legion, said he came to Saturday's walk meet other veterans. Before the walk even started he had met three. He also wanted to spread awareness about veteran suicide.

"Sadly, we all seem to know people who have committed suicide," he said. He referenced Marcy, who used to go horseback riding with his wife. He and Marcy were neighbors. He said he didn't have many answers as to how people could help.

"Just be sensitive to what people are saying, listen to what people are saying," he said. "You're not alone. Don't carry the weight yourself. Call someone. Talk to someone."

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.


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