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Alabama student veterans began a 150-mile march from Tuscaloosa to Auburn on Wednesday to educate 17 veterans estimated to be lost daily to suicide.
The fourth L Operation Iron Ruck - which brings together students from the University of Alabama and the University of Auburn - kicked off outside Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday and was will end at the Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn on Saturday, before football teams from rival schools face off in the Iron Bowl.
The walk 72-Hour Walk is comprised of walkers from both schools, most carrying a 17-pound backpack containing donated items that will be donated to charities to benefit Alabama veterans.
A STUDENT OF L ' IOWA HONORS VETERANS WITH HUGE AMERICAN FLAG AFTER FUNDRAISING EFFORT
President of the University of Veterans Association Alabama, Slade Salmon, and Auburn University Student Affairs Association president Clay Buchanan are leading the effort.
Veteran students march from Auburn to Tuscaloosa during the Operation Iron Ruck march in 2020. (Slade Salmon)
Salmon a said the event is "a way for us to commemorate the 17 veterans who die each day as a result of suicide " and noted that he uses the event to reconnect with those with qui he served.
"I'm not good at keeping in touch with a lot of people I've served with, but I do make an effort to reach out during this time ", Salmon said. "Isolation is a major factor in veteran suicide. Reaching out to those we have served with could be the catalyst for saving a life.
Operation Iron Ruck recently partnered with Alabama 's Challenge to prevent suicide among service members, veterans and their families.
"Many veterans, including myself, know personally another veteran or serviceman who committed suicide, "Buchanan told Fox News. "Thanks to Operation Iron Ruck and the collaboration of veteran students from Auburn and Alabama, it really shows that the veteran community is strong and determined to take care of our siblings till the end. 'so that 17 becomes zero. "
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has expressed support for the efforts of organizers of the march, saying in a statement: "It is imperative that as a nation we never forget to offer our support to the brave men and women who have served our country in the military.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (AP)
"We need to put more emphasis on preventing veteran suicide and supporting these brave men and women. women after they return home, that 's why I am so proud of the efforts of our veteran students embarking on Operation Iron Ruck, "said Ivey." Our military men and women are working hard. works to guarantee our freedoms, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Alabama will always stand behind our veterans. "