MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Governor’s Office) -- Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday offered her support to Operation Iron Ruck, an effort by student veterans at The University of Alabama and Auburn University to bring awareness to veteran suicide. On Wednesday, November 27, student veterans from both schools will embark on a ruck march from Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, and on Iron Bowl Saturday, November 30, they will complete the route at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.
Governor Ivey has signed a proclamation declaring November 30, 2019 as Operation Iron Ruck Day in the state of Alabama.
“Since our country’s inception, our military members have shown their patriotism, their bravery, and ultimately, their willingness to lay their lives on the line for the sake of protecting our freedoms. That sacrifice does not end in combat, because even when our men and women return safely home, many continue to struggle with the impacts of war,” Governor Ivey said. “Sadly, in our country, suicide claims the lives of around 22 veterans each day. I urge Alabamians and people all across our country to continue fighting for those who fight for us. I am proud to see this committed group of students from Alabama and Auburn come together to bring awareness to this issue facing veterans in our country.”
The group of student veterans, led by Micah “Slade” Salmon of The University of Alabama and Auburn University’s Justin Schwab, will take part in the four-day, 150 mile ruck march from Tuscaloosa to Auburn, while carrying rucksacks. Those rucksacks contain donated items that the students will deliver to the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City and Three Hots and a Cot, an organization that assists homeless veterans. The items include socks, gloves and other winter clothing, toiletries and canned goods.
“Operation Iron Ruck is about the student veterans from both Auburn and Alabama coming together during Iron Bowl week for a much greater purpose. Beginning Wednesday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, we will put down our rivalry and pick up our 22lb ruck-sacks to walk together for 151 miles into Jordan-Hare Stadium on game day to raise awareness for veteran suicide. There are roughly 22 veterans per day that take their own lives in this country, and the state of Alabama is the second largest contributor to this statistic,” Schwab said. “Our goal is to bring that number down to zero, but we cannot do it without help.”
Salmon added, “We ask everyone to reach out to any veteran they know and see how they are doing. We also want every veteran out there to know that there are avenues for help and still plenty of us that care about them.”
The national headquarters of The American Legion and The American Legion of Alabama sponsored the student veterans and provided logistical support along the route of the march.
“It is fantastic that the Alabama and Auburn student veterans’ associations set aside their rivalry to work together to raise awareness about the veteran suicide rate by marching the 150 miles from stadium to stadium,” Kent Davis, Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner, said. “The ruck sacks these veterans will carry symbolize the 22 veterans lost each day to suicide.”
Close to 400,000 veterans call the state of Alabama home, meaning one in ten Alabamians have boldly answered the call of duty to defend the independence and precious liberties this country offers.
Alabama veterans facing their own struggles or loved ones of veterans battling post-war effects are encouraged to call The Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 to speak to trained counselors and access immediately available resources.