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March shines spotlight on veteran suicides

BRATTLEBORO—On Sunday, July 8, Army First Lt. Lauren Mabie, a native of Brattleboro, and her mother, state Rep. Valerie Stuart, D-Brattleboro, will hold the third annual 22-4-22 March to raise awareness about veteran suicide.

The 22-4-22 March brings attention to the high rate of veteran suicide, reminds Vermonters of local lives that have been lost, and educates participants about how to understand the heavy weight veterans carry.

All participants are encouraged to read “Thank You for Your Service,” by David Finkel, as a launching point for meaningful discussion during the march. Mabie and Stuart hope to create a greater understanding of the disruption that often follows combat service.

Mabie had the idea to start the march while she was a sophomore at American University. She saw 22 American flags on the campus quad and asked a friend who was a veteran if he knew why they were there.

After learning that veterans were taking their own lives at a rate of 22 per day, she decided to take action on this issue. Mabie brought the idea to her mother, who helped her work out logistics and publicize the event.

Since Mabie and Stuart started the march three years ago, the rate of veteran suicide has dropped. However, the burden that veterans and their families face is still shouldered by an extremely small portion of the American population. Stuart and Mabie are dedicated to minimizing the civil-military gap and sharing the heavy burden of war.

The 22-4-22 March will start at the Brattleboro Union High School; participants are asked to arrive at 8 a.m. Mabie and Stuart will give a brief speech, and all participants will observe a moment of silence to honor the fallen.

The march will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. when participants set out on their chosen distance of either 3, 5, 11, or 22 miles. All turnaround points will be clearly marked with a sign, and the route returning to the BUHS will be the same.

Participants who march the 11 miles to the Putney Food Co-Op will stop for a 30-minute lunch break, rest their feet, and take a group photo. Participants will then march back along the same route. Bottled water and snacks will be provided along the entire 11- and 22-mile route, every 3 to 4 miles, for all participants.

Marchers will remember real veterans who died by suicide. If you or anyone you know has been personally affected by this issue, and would like a veteran to be remembered, contact Mabie at, or on Whatsapp at 49 151 228 10041. The veteran will then be assigned a person marching, who can honor them with a shirt, photo, dog-tags, bracelet, or in any other way desired.

In future years, Stuart said she hopes individuals around the state of Vermont will host their own 22-4-22 March, so that marchers can cover more distance and eventually walk the length of the whole state. If you are interested in coordinating your own march, contact Valerie Stuart at vstuart@leg.state.vt.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #466 (Wednesday, July 4, 2018). This story appeared on page A4.

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