March to raise awareness of veterans' mental health

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BRATTLEBORO — On Saturday, Brattleboro native, 1LT Lauren Stuart Mabie, and her mother, state Rep. Valerie Ann Stuart, D-Windham-2-1, will hold the Second Annual 22-4-22 Mile March to raise awareness of the high rate of suicide among veterans.

Less than 1 percent of the American population shoulders the burden of serving in the military. Yet one in two service members know someone who has attempted suicide or succeeded in taking their own life. The 22-4-22 Mile March sheds light on a grim statistic: an average of 22 veterans take their own lives every day, of every week, of every year in the United States, according to the Veteran's Affairs 2012 Suicide Data Report.

1LT Mabie, her mother, Valerie Stuart and father, John Mabie, held the first 22-4-22 Mile March on Jan. 2, 2016. Approximately 25 local veterans and civilians, ranging in age from 14 to over 60 years old, joined them on the walk from Brattleboro Union High School to the Putney Food Co-op and back again to raise awareness of this mental health crisis among Americans who serve our country.

The 22-4-22 Mile March will start at BUHS this Saturday. Participants should arrive at the parking lot across from BUHS at 8 a.m. No registration is required to participate.

Walkers should arrive wearing comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. They also should bring a water bottle or two and light snacks for themselves. The march will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. At that point, participants will start to walk the 11 miles to the Putney Food Co-op. They will wend their way down Canal Street, through the town of Brattleboro, and ultimately along the well-defined shoulder on Route 5 to Putney.

After a 30-minute lunch break at the Putney Food Co-op, participants will walk back along the same route. Walkers are welcome to complete as much or as little of the march as they wish. All walkers must organize their own rides home from their stopping points. Bathrooms are located at retail and fast food outlets along Putney Road.

This year, marchers who wish to honor veterans who took their own lives may contact 1LT Mabie at lauren.mabie@alumni.american.edu, or cell: 802-338-6580. Those who wish to

honor family members, friends or loved ones who took their own lives may either march with a sign or t-shirt in honor of their loved one or be assigned to a person marching who can carry a sign or wear a T-shirt in a deceased veteran's honor.

In future years, 1 LT Mabie and Representative Stuart hope to inspire individuals all across Vermont to host their own 22-4-22 Mile Marches.

If you are interested in coordinating your own 22 Mile March in the future contact Valerie Stuart at vstuart@leg.state.vt.us.

This year the mother/daughter team also created a GoFundMe page that will raise money for veterans while enlightening their neighbors regarding this important mental health issue. The goal is to raise $1,000 for the WoundedWarriorProject, which rehabilitates veterans with physical and/or mental health issues and advocates on veterans' behalf. To donate go the

WoundedWarriorProject at: https://www.gofundme.com/22for22march.

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