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Editorial: Walk4Valor returns to raise funds for programs aimed at reducing veteran suicide

One of the glaring disgraces in American society is the treatment of the veterans who served in its wars and came home to struggle with restarting their lives in a country that devalues their sacrifices abroad.

The Vietnam veterans are a classic example: The government asked young soldiers to go abroad to fight, and they were then victimized by a society that denigrated what they did — as if it was their decision — not the politicians’ —to go to war in Vietnam. 

That discussion aside, here is a statistic that should trouble all of us: Some 22 military vets die by suicide each day in America. This is a unique tragedy suffered by a special group of Americans and the country must pay attention to it.

There are ways for all of us to show we care about the men and women who served this country unselfishly. One will take place Saturday, the “Walk4Valor 2022” that begins in Southold. Organized by American Legion Post 803 Commander Charles  Sanders — himself an Army National Guard major — the walk raises funding for programs aimed at reducing veteran suicide and building awareness of its disturbing frequency, In his seven years as post commander, Mr. Sanders has prioritized welcoming veterans across the North Fork, making sure they feel appreciated and have a social hub at the post. But he’s also fully aware that some of them need special attention.

Hence, on Saturday, Mr. Sanders will join anyone who wants to show their support on a 22-mile walk that will start at Post 803 at 8 a.m. (registration begins at 7 a.m.) and end with a barbecue at the Southold Fire Department. Support for this cause has caught on, with similar events happening in towns big and small from New York State to Maine. Virtual events in support of the issue are also occurring nationwide.

Mr. Sanders notes that some participants will carry packs weighing 22 pounds. He stresses that no one has to do this, nor does everyone have to walk the full 22 miles. “We divided this up so they may register to do segments or just support virtually,” he said. 

He suggests that donations be divided up this way: $20 for the first leg, from the Legion Post to the Greenport Legion Hall; $25 for the second leg, from Greenport to Orient; and $30 for the final leg, which ends at the fire department.

All proceeds raised by the walk, or virtually, will support scholarships for children of military families, veterans, active service members and their spouses through the Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation, he said. Last year, $12,000 was raised. “Walk4Valor” has joined with Mission Roll Call, an advocacy group, that provides veteran organizations with a strong voice on the issue of suicides.

For more information or to get involved, call Post 803 in Southold at 631-765-2276 or visit it online at post803.com.

Editor’s Note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, dial 988.

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