Huskers march to expand awareness of veteran suicides
The Cornhusker Marching Band is putting a little extra meaning into each glide, left step and high knee this October.
More than 30 members of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s marching band are participating in the 22 in 22 Challenge, a national campaign designed to raise awareness about military suicides and generate donations for veteran support services.
“Every day, an average of 22 soldiers commit suicide,” said Lena Buckner, a senior baritone player and member of the band’s leadership team. “It’s a cold, hard, heartbreaking number that most people are unaware of. It made me take a step back and I realized that participation in 22 in 22 was really important.”
The challenge was launched in 2016 by Delaware teen Jacob DiSabatino and his father, Brian DiSabatino. Earlier this semester, Brian DiSabatino approached Tony Falcone, a college band buddy turned associate director of the Cornhusker Marching Band, to see if the Pride of All Nebraska would be interested in participating in the 2017 challenge.
“The timing was right because we were looking for a community outreach project for the band,” Falcone said. “This one was the perfect fit, a really worthy cause that touches each of us.”
For Falcone, the challenge is a way to honor the military service of his father and other relatives. The same is true for individual band members with family histories of military service, relatives in the service or who may be participating in Nebraska’s ROTC program. The challenge also ties into the band’s historical roots.
“Not everyone knows that our band started in the 1880s as way to improve the drill work of students in the military cadet program,” Falcone said. “It continued to be a military band until the late 1930s.”
The challenge started Oct. 1 with members pledging to march at least one mile each day through Oct. 22. Band members were not required to participate in the project, but the student response has been enthusiastic.
“As members of the Cornhusker Marching Band, we’re able to have all sorts of positive influences on the public,” Buckner said. “This is one of those.
“Marching one mile a day is such a very small thing for us — we already do it anyway. But, to be able to take something we do every day and use it to increase awareness about veteran suicide is an amazing opportunity to make a positive impact.”
As the participating students count steps daily (most completing the daily mile before practice ends each morning in Memorial Stadium), they also encourage friends, families and members of the public through social media posts to learn more about the cause and donate to 22 in 22. Thus far, the band has surpassed its fundraising goal four times, having collected more than $1,500.
All funds raised will be donated to Stop Soldier Suicide, a veteran-created-and-led nonprofit with the goal of preventing military suicides.
“This is a chance for the band to use its public profile to serve,” Falcone said. “If our efforts can help even one soldier, that’s something the students will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”