• 22Kill: Local organization looks to stop veteran suicides

    By: Mark Ockerbloom , Kathryn Shehade


    HAVERHILL, Mass. - It's estimated that 22 veteran's commit suicide in this country every day due to the lingering effects of war, a sobering statistic. Josh Wallace, a veteran himself, served seven years in the army and he wants to erase those memories.

    "I got a phone call from a friend of mine back home saying that my number two had hung himself and he had left behind a wife and two daughters," said Wallace, "If I could talk to myself 20 years ago after the war and say this is going to be. You're going to be alright. You're going to stumble. But you’re going to pick yourself up. And I think that’s what this organization is all about."

    Today Josh "Scruffy" Wallace, formerly of The Dropkick Murphys, is part of a global movement called 22Kill. It's designed to empower veterans as they return to civilian life, and the name is meant to raise eyebrows.

    "22Kill, when you read it, it's alarming, I'll be honest with you, it's designed to be that way it's supposed to be aggressive, and it's supposed to grab your attention. You know it's not the most politically correct term but veterans aren't usually the most politically correct anyway so it’s a perfect fit and it raises that eyebrow so people like what is that and you can explain it to them, what's going on," Wallace said.

    Matt Nelson is the executive director of 22Kill in Massachusetts. He was in the military for more than 13 years and deployed five times, including twice for combat with the Marines. He said the safety of coming home from service is often the beginning of a dangerous spiral

    "I think one of the big issues is that veterans lose their sense of purpose when they come home because you're in a situation where you're at the top of your game, you're fighting for the country, you're serving for the country, and then you come back and the bottom kind of falls out from under you," said Nelson.

    With the help of civilians, Nelson believes vets have a fighting chance at realizing their value at home.

    For them he says, a piece of jewelry could hold the key to saving lives.

    "The ring is called an honor ring. So it's basically to honor someone's service. You wear it on your trigger finger and it symbolizes the issue of veteran suicides. That honor ring, whether it's worn by civilian or veteran, it basically means that you have a friend. You have someone's back if they're ever in need."

    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    22Kill is also enlisting veteran advocates, known as 'Battle Buddies', to help those military members struggling with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injuries.

    But sadly, not every veteran can be helped by the program.

    © 2019 Cox Media Group.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Over Memorial Day weekend airman first class Drew Winkler also took his life with no warning. Leaving behind a wife and two sons.

    Winkler's last post on Facebook read:

    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Winkler was another friend Wallace said he lost too soon.

    "If it was something that could have been prevented, something as simple as wearing a ring or just opening a dialogue or having a conversation about something, just to get the ball moving, maybe he wouldn't have killed himself."

    If you'd like to become a Veteran's Advocate where you can donate, or to purchase an honor ring visit www.22Kill.com.

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