Veteran Suicide Awareness March

MADISON, S.D. (KSFY) - Veterans day is Monday. It’s a time to honor those who have served.

However, one South Dakota veteran also uses this time of year to bring awareness to an important issue facing some veterans: suicide.

Jacob Schaefers is a Marine Corps veteran. He served for five years.

“One of the best things I ever did. I absolutely 100 percent loved it and I met a lot of great guys and a lot of great girls and everything, made a lot of brothers and sisters,” Schaefers said.

However, after getting out of the military, Schaefers realized some of his brothers and sisters had a difficult time transitioning back to civilian life.

“When I was in boot camp, I met a really good friend. We got out and we went to our schooling and everything together and while I was in schooling he called me up one night and asked to hang out and I was, you know busy. I had something going on, I can’t really remember what I had going on, but the next day I found out that he ended up committing suicide that night,” Schaefers said.

This isn’t uncommon, according to research as many as 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

“It’s a hard thing that hits you and you kind of get blindsided by it and you don’t know what to do with it,” Schaefers said.

Schaefers heard about veteran suicide awareness marches being held across the country to address this issue,but he was never able to make them. So he started his own march in Madison three years ago.

“The first year I did it by myself. Went out to Broadwater and back, which is 22 miles for the average 22 veterans that commit suicide each day,” Schaefers said.

The next year, several family and friends joined him. This year he hopes to grow the march.

“My whole goal is just to kind of get it out for everyone else to know and everyone to realize this is going on,” Schaefers said.

He also wants those who are hurting to know that people do care.

“You know if I stop someone from committing suicide, you know even if that’s one person, it makes it all worth it,” Schaefers said.

Due to flooding at the Broadwater, this year’s march will be held on the Trojan Field at Dakota State University. The event is Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is free to participate. The goal is to do 22 laps to signify the average number of veterans who commit suicide each day.

There are also ways to contribute financially. You can purchase a t-shirt at the march for $15. The money will go to Mission 22, a non-profit organization dedicated to healing America’s veterans. The Stadium will also donate $1 for every tall beer or double drink ordered from 1-5 p.m. In addition, donations can be made at Wells Fargo to the Madison Veterans March account.