UA, Auburn student-vets marching 150 miles to Iron Bowl for suicide awareness

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AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — Nearly 80 veterans from the University of Alabama and Auburn University will come together and take part in Operation Iron Ruck starting Wednesday morning.

The goal of the 150-mile march is to raise awareness of veteran suicide. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 vets commit suicide every day. The VA also ranks Alabama as having the second-highest rate of veteran suicide.

Operation Iron Ruck, now in its second year, is a three-day march to raise awareness about veteran suicides. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

“We’ve either known somebody who has lost somebody to suicide or lost somebody who is close to us from suicide,” said Andrew Grantham, a student at Auburn who serves in the United States Marine Corps as a reserve officer. “It’s just good to bring awareness to that.”

Veterans will leave Bryant-Denny Stadium Wednesday and make their way to Jordan-Hare Stadium just in time to deliver the game ball that will be used in the 2019 Iron Bowl between the two schools.

Each participant will also be carrying a 20-pound rucksack full of donations that will be given to the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City and Three Hots and a Cot, an organization that assists homeless vets.

Jamie Patterson, an Alabama student who serves in the United States Air Force Reserves, said it’s such a great cause that he tries to spread awareness any way that he can.

“Veterans who are thinking about suicide or struggling, we are trying to bring awareness to them about their causes and to make sure they are not alone,” Patterson said. “There is help out there for them and we want them to know we are here for them.”

Gov. Kay Ivey offered her support in the ruck march. She has declared Nov. 30 as “Operation Iron Ruck Day” in the state of Alabama.

“Since our country’s inception, our military members have shown their patriotism, their bravery, and ultimately, their willingness to lay their lives on the line for the sake of protecting our freedoms. That sacrifice does not end in combat, because even when our men and women return safely home, many continue to struggle with the impacts of war,” Gov. Ivey said.

Operation Iron Ruck will begin at 7 a.m.with a ceremony at the Walk of Champions. The actual march to Auburn will begin around 7:45 a.m.


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