MICHIGAN (NBC) – Two Michigan veterans are walking 22 miles each day in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to raise awareness about members of the military who take their lives each day. Reports indicate that average is about 22 people a day.
Every day for the next two weeks, these two soldiers will be walking 22 miles. Why? Because on average, every day 22 veterans take their own lives. “Nobody made us do this, it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a while, and we planned it out. End of December, I think, is when we started to get serious about it,” said First Lt. Cody Cass, of the U.S. National Guard.
After months of training, Michigan National Guard soldiers Cody Cass and Michael Beattie hit the road for their 308 mile walking journey on May 13th. “We started in Ironwood and are averaging about 22 miles a day because on average 22 veterans a day take their own lives. So, hopefully getting the awareness out, and spreading the word, especially in the local area, so that hopefully we can reduce that number so the next time someone attempts to do this, they’re walking less miles a day,” says Cass.
Equipped with 55 pound backpacks, and experiencing unpredictable weather, the trip has not been easy by any means. “Well today is day four, and overall it hasn’t been too bad, we have been meeting a lot of nice people and stopping at local diners and spreading the message. The long stretches kind of get quiet but we try to entertain each other,” said Staff Sergeant Michael Beattie.
Though this cross-UP trip for these soldiers is grueling, they say it’s nothing compared to the pain that some veterans live with, every day.
“In an institution, you know being in the military, there’s kind of a ‘macho’ feeling to it, and that help is a sign of weakness, but it’s really not. It take a lot of strength and courage to reach out to those resources.”
“Guys, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. There’s plenty of people out there willing to listen.”
If you would like to follow along with Cass and Beattie’s trek, photos and updates of their route are being posted to the Michigan National Guard Facebook Page.