Raising awareness with the help of your dog: Learn about the 30-mile dog walk challenge to stop soldier suicide

News 12 New Jersey’s Amanda Russo and her dog, Sunny, took part in 30-mile dog walk challenge to help call attention to suicide among veterans.

News 12 Staff

Oct 10, 2022, 10:02 AM

Updated 641 days ago

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News 12 New Jersey’s Amanda Russo and her dog, Sunny, took part in 30-mile dog walk challenge to help call attention to suicide among veterans.
Russo sat down with a Marine from Monmouth County who talks about his own experiences and how he is trying to help his fellow vets.
The non-profit organization, Stop Soldier Suicide, created the challenge. Founded and lead by veterans, their mission is to see a significant reduction in the amount of service member and veteran suicides.
“After I deployed, I went to Iraq,” says Marine veteran Mike Sullivan, of Howell. “A lot of good times and bad times.
He knows all too well the effects that serving can have. More than 125,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2001. Veterans are at a 57% higher risk than their peers who haven't served.
“I know a few people that regretfully took their own life,” says Sullivan. “One on the same deployment, he committed suicide. So it hits pretty close to home.”
Founded by three U.S. Army veterans, what started as a toll free number has now expanded to Facebook, spreading their message and challenges around the country.    
“Any organization that's willing to do that is OK in my book,” says Sullivan
By walking your dog, the organization was able to raise more than $800,000 -- and that's just with one challenge. Money raised from challenges such as this help fund mental health support, housing assistance and other services. Along with his family, Sullivan found additional support through his service dog, Gunner.
“He tends to pull me out of situations that I really don't feel comfortable in, like he senses that there's an issue,” says Sullivan. “It’s like having someone to talk to even though it’s a dog, greatest thing in the world.”
Today, Sullivan is using his own experience to get the word out.
“Never give up,” says Sullivan. “Always use your ability to talk to another vet, use VA if you have to, family, friends, great support system, they may not know what's going on. They're always there to open and listen.”
If you're a veteran or service member in crisis, please call 844-907-1338.


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