Alex Van Driel wants people to remember the number 23.
The veteran will lead a 23-mile march through Colleyville on Saturday to raise awareness that 23 veterans commit suicide daily.
“This is a chance for us to put our boots to the pavement and actively demonstrate as much trouble as those vets are going through,” he said. “Twenty-three lives per day is too many.”
A 2012 report by the Veterans Administration estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide daily, a number that began rising in 2005. Van Driel believes that number could now be 23.
The march will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the veterans memorial in Sparger Park. Van Driel of Irving said he expects the trek to conclude around 4 or 5 p.m. with a return to the memorial. He estimates that 10 to 20 marchers will walk with him.
Marchers will carry bags, or rucks, that weigh at least 25 pounds to remember those veterans who have died and bring awareness to the problem.
This is Van Driel’s first time organizing the event, which is part of the national Ruck up for Life movement. A Marine, he served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He said he experienced the difficulties of returning to civilian life in 2009.
“Like robots the military trains us to be very uniform and very strict,” he said. “They don’t train us to turn it off and without the ability to turn things off sometimes you can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He said he couldn’t talk to people at first, but soon realized he needed help.
“I struggled for a long time,” he said. “For those that don’t learn to talk about it and let it out, they don’t get better.”