Six residents braved subfreezing temperatures for three hours at a Killeen park Saturday morning to take part in an event dedicated to reducing veteran suicides.
The Carry The Fallen 8.5-mile team hiking event, which started at 8 a.m. at Lions Club Park, was a fundraiser for Active Heroes, an organization dedicated to helping active-duty service members and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts, said Breeanna Eddings, the Killeen-area team leader.
“What Active Heroes does is it promotes suicide awareness and also promotes PTSD awareness in showing the community that you’re not alone. People do care,” said Eddings, an active-duty Army sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “Suicide is not something you have to do or need to do.”
Some participants in the free event carried weights in their ruck sacks to symbolize the emotional weight that many veterans carry after war, Eddings said.
“With the rucks, we’re showing that there’s camaraderie. There are people you can turn to. You have purpose,” Eddings said.
She added that everyone involved worked together as a team regardless of individual pace.
“We’re as fast as our slowest person. You never leave someone behind,” Eddings said.
Active Heroes, which has peer mentors throughout the country, is working toward reducing veteran suicides through free programs to help heal post-traumatic stress disorder.
The organization has a community center in Kentucky and plans to expand nationwide.
For Heather Gulich, a veteran living in Killeen, the event was the least she could do for the friend she lost to suicide two years ago.
“He is my friend, and he was my soldier,” she said. “It is still devastating two years later that he chose to do what he did, and I would not be anywhere else.”
Learn more about the Active Heroes programs at www.ActiveHeroes.org.