Chicago Veterans Ruck March raises awareness for suicide prevention, mental health

Evelyn Holmes Image
Friday, May 24, 2024
Veterans Ruck March raises mental health awareness, suicide prevention
The Chicago Veterans Ruck March 2024 raised awareness for suicide prevention and veterans' mental health, going from Glencoe to North Avenue Beach.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Veterans Ruck March uses Memorial Day Weekend as an opportunity to help raise awareness about the mental health struggles that impact many veterans.

The march also honors the men and women who served, and then died once they returned home.

ABC7 Chicago is now streaming 24/7. Click here to watch

The Ruck March began in Veterans Memorial Park in north suburban Glencoe. This year's march finished near North Avenue Beach.

Each mile is significant of every veteran we lose everyday. We lose approximately 20 to 24 veterans a day.
Karen Hernandez, Chicago Veterans Executive Director

Like most at the event on Friday, Illinois Army National Guard Specialist Matthew Quinn walked with a purpose and a goal.

"My sister, March 1st of this year, she committed suicide and I want to be here supporting her as well," Quinn said. "She's up there and I'm down here, and I want to support her."

A ruck is a military term for something you carry while in service, like a backpack. A the march though, it represents the stresses and burden military members can often battle at home.

"This is the first time I've participated," Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Dolores Lechmar said. "My friends have always done it, and we're doing it for suicide awareness and friends that have passed. I really wanted to recognize them."

For a 10th consecutive year, veterans and active members of all branches of the military, their families and the community joined the effort to increase awareness about suicide prevention and mental health for veterans.

Illinois Army Reserves Major Hamzat Azez has walked in the event for seven years.

"Even though it's just Memorial Day weekend, it kind of brings it back to like why we are doing it," Azez said. "It's not just for the hot dogs and hamburgers, it's for remembering our lost ones."

SEE ALSO | Veterans call for public access to North Park military memorial being used as migrant shelter

The first leg of the 20-mile walk ended in Evanston. Organizers said each mile is special.

"Each mile is significant of every veteran we lose everyday," Chicago Veterans Executive Director Karen Hernandez said. "We lose approximately 20 to 24 veterans a day, and so they're walking this long route to raise awareness for veterans suicide, to reduce the sigma around mental health."

What began in 2014 as a small walk to Navy Pier has grown to include over 10,000 veterans and their supporters across the country.

So far, the march has raised over $90,000 for veterans' mental health.