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MISSOULA –Sunday morning, Missoula veteran Josh Morrison started on his 22-mile walk to raise awareness for high levels of veteran suicide across the nation.Twenty two miles is a walk in the park for a soldier, but for Morrison it’s more than that. Every mile is a number that denotes the amount of veterans that complete suicide nationally every day. Morrison sees every step as another opportunity to raise awareness on high veteran suicide rates.

“My goal, end goal, you know, whenever I have the opportunity to do it, is to walk across 22 states, visit 22 VA hospitals, and visit with veterans that are battling, you know war wounds, or PTSD, uh traumatic brain injury, anything that, you know, it may be, and just helping people and bringing the light to their eyes that there are people that care,” Morrison said.

Morrison has struggled with post-war trauma, nearly to the point where he couldn’t bear it. But something kept him alive, some subconscious spur reminding him that he could help people like him survive.

“I was going through, you know, my own hard times, and my trials and tribulations of, you know I’ve been there. I’ve had to call the Veteran Crisis Line and talk with somebody. I’ve had to do it. I’m not afraid to admit it. You know you see things over there and you do things over there that most people can’t even fathom thinking about. After you get out of the military and you don’t have your brothers around you anymore, it begins to kind of set in, like holy cow, this is real,” Morrison said.

Veterans returning from war relish time with family. Family provides shelter and escape from the trauma of war. But when young soldiers lose the company of their fellow soldiers that truly understand the pain, that’s a wound not even time with family can heal.

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“My family provides support to me every day because they’re there, you know it’s somebody that I can go home to, that I get to wake up to and see every day and it gives me a sense of being, gives me the reason to be there. I seek comradery from my other fellow veterans because some of those guys have done things in combat that, you know, really, really both , or it gets ’em, so you have common ground there,” veteran Joshua Deering said.

The Chair of the Western Montana Suicide Prevention Initiative says that in Montana especially, veterans complete suicide almost two times more often than the national average. Yet, according to the Attorney General, suicide is the most preventative cause of death. The problem is people are reluctant to ask for help.

“The cowboy mentality isn’t really a myth, even in the 21st Century. People are very reluctant sometimes to seek help. But we also know that we can do a lot to prevent suicide. I think there is a roll for all of us to play in preventing suicide. We say preventing suicide is everybody’s business,” the Chair of the Western Montana Suicide Prevention Initiative Susan Hay Patrick said.

Hay says the most important measures to prevent suicide are educating healthcare professionals and restricting access to lethal means of completing suicide. For all veterans watching, know that there are people like Josh Morrison taking the time to show you that you’re not alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the national suicide lifeline at 1 800 273 TALK.

 

Reporter:  Derek Minemeyer 

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