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22-mile walk raises awareness on veteran suicide

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Posted at 9:50 PM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 23:50:28-04

A veteran walked 22 miles from Laurel to Billings to raise awareness about veteran suicide.

He wants to let veterans know that they can get to help at the Adaptive Performance Center (APC) and he's doing the walk to help support families.

U.S. Army veteran Frank Barnes arrived at Fire Station 4 at Terry Park, where Vietnam veteran joined him for the last 1.1 miles.

"That was Jim's symbolism for to show the age difference that it affects everybody," Barnes said.

Two women whose veteran relatives committed suicide also joined for the last mile.

"This means a whole lot to me," said Trish Kellinger. "I'm a veteran myself, but I've lost my brother to suicide. He took his life eight years ago."

Barnes started the walk on Friday, September 22 at 6:22 a.m. and carried 22 pounds with him the whole way.

"Symbol of 22 is kind of a rallying cry for preventing suicides from veteran personnel," Barnes said.

Barnes says the number of veteran suicides may be as high as 44 a day. He carried a personal list with him throughout the walk.

"Soldiers that I know take their lives, couple of them and close friends," said Barnes. "Obviously some family members here that were part of that list have reached out."

The walk ended at the Adaptive Performance Center in Billings, which has become a safe place for veterans to talk about the issue.

"A person has passed but they think he or she's forgotten," said Mitch Crouse, APC co-founder. "And we're reminding (the family) that, they're not forgotten."

Crouse and Karen Pearson, also an APC co-founder, host their own event, Walk The Bridge, on the 22nd of every month at 6:00 p.m. at Sword Park.

And they also joined Barnes on his grueling journey.

"It gets really emotional," Pearson said. "And then the minute you hit this parking lot, and it's done and the hugs start in, you recognize the magnanimity of what the last six and a half hours have been."

"It was challenging just to work through those demons in process and move forward," said Barnes.

Moving forward is exactly what gets him through it

"Reassures myself that if I have a problem, I can overcome it," Barnes said.

Barnes did the walk last year and raised about $2,600 this year to help with veteran suicide prevention.

Pearson says the walk now is an APC tradition.