Edwards Airmen walk through darkness to fight suicide

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Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem

Staff Sgt. Ashley Hookey, 412th Operations Support Squadron, welcomes participants to the Fight for Life Suicide Prevention and Awareness Event at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 28-29. The event was an overnight relay ruck march, run or walk.

Edwards Air Force Base in California is not immune to the veteran suicide epidemic.

According to the latest report from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 6,079 veterans committed suicide in 2016. Edwards Airmen are banding together to help stem the number, to “fight for life.”

Airmen, veterans, family and friends participated in the Fight for Life Suicide Prevention and Awareness Event at Edwards, Sept. 28-29. The event was a 12-hour walk, run, or ruck march relay event.

“Our mission was to bring together what we know to be a community of loss, under a banner of hope, a banner of community. We realized that there was a vital part of our conversation that wasn’t happening, so we thought the best way to do it was through a 12-hour long ruck,” said Staff Sgt. Joanna Cunningham, 412th Operations Support Squadron. “And we did, we did a lot of talking out there too. It was for hope, to let everybody know that we’re here for each other.”

Two participants write down who they are marching for during the Fight for Life Suicide Prevention and Awareness Event at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 28-29. The event was an overnight relay ruck march, run or walk.

Cunningham, along with Staff Sgt. Ashley Hookey, also with 412th OSS, organized the event. They both said that the overnight event symbolized the commitment that Airmen have to each other, that no matter what time it is, help is available.

Marine Corps veteran Denver Morris said being connected to other veterans has helped him through depression and substance abuse problems.

“Now is the time to get connected,” Morris said. “Suicide is very real, so now is the time to make those connections.”

Morris now serves as a program coordinator for the Los Angeles branch of Merging Vets with Players. MVP is a non-profit organization that matches veterans and athletes to help them both transition to life after the uniform comes off. Morris added that all service members are like family and that they should all look out for each other.
 

Participants of the Fight for Life Suicide Prevention and Awareness Event finish the final leg of the 12-hour relay at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 28-29. The event was an overnight relay ruck march, run or walk.