Huskers and Hawkeyes are hitting the pavement to raise awareness about veteran suicides.
From Nov. 20-29, student veteran organizations from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Iowa are taking part in “The Things They Carry Ruck March.” The annual campaign features nearly 200 volunteers walking a ceremonial football to the Huskers’ Memorial Stadium for the Nov. 29 game between the two Big Ten institutions.
The ruck — a military term for hauling gear in a backpack from one point to another — is covering 322 miles between Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium and Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Each participant has been asked to carry 20 pounds of personal belongings to signify the average number of U.S. soldiers — from active duty and reserves to National Guard and retired veterans — who die from suicide daily.
“We’re partnering again with the University of Iowa to raise public awareness,” said Jake Post, a retired U.S. Marine, president of Nebraska’s student veteran organization and a senior in the College of Education and Human Sciences. “Veteran suicide is an issue that needs to be resolved and, to accomplish that, people need to first know about it.”
After covering about half of the distance, the Hawkeye team handed the ceremonial football off to the Huskers on Nov. 24. The exchange took place at Freedom Rock, a 12-foot-tall boulder located along Highway 25, near Menlo, Iowa. Established in 1999 by Ray Sorensen, an artist and veteran supporter, the boulder is painted with a design honoring veterans.
During the walk, veterans, family members and the public also participate with the students.
The ruck neared Council Bluffs on Nov. 26. Progress can also be followed on Facebook.
View this post on Instagram
cw: suicide ... After facing rain, wind and snow across 322 miles of Iowa and Nebraska, student veterans will hand-deliver a football to Memorial Stadium. This ceremonial game ball is being carried as a part of this year's The Things They Carry Ruck March with the student veteran organizations of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of Iowa. Starting at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 20, volunteers have marched for up to 20 miles per shift to carry the ball to the stadium. Along with the ball, they've also carried 20 pounds in the rucksacks on their backs to symbolize the 20 veterans that are lost each day to suicide. Jake Post is a United States Marine Corps veteran, a UNL student and an organizer for this year's ruck march. As someone who struggled to transition back to civilian life after serving in the military, he understands the isolation, stress and fear that many veterans silently endure. He's had friends and unit members die from suicide, and wants to prevent it from happening in the future. Jake participates in the ruck march to remind other service members and veterans that they are not alone in the struggles they face. Jake and his fellow volunteers know they are marching for those who can't anymore. Though it may be cold, their rucksacks might be heavy and their feet might be blistered as they march across the rural roads, they know that what they're doing will help those who need it most. "Every year there's been handfuls of people that have come to me and said, 'Thank you for this event...this event saved my life." ... Jake Post is a senior child, youth and family studies major from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. To share your story or nominate a friend, email firstname.lastname@example.org or post using #ImAHusker. #UNL #InOurGritOurGlory