Terry Sharpe, also known as “The Walking Marine,” took a break from his perambulation at 5:30 p.m. one Friday in October.
He didn’t move again until 3:30 the following afternoon.
The Vietnam veteran stood in place for 22 hours straight, posted at the corner of Battleground and New Garden Road in Greensboro, North Carolina. And he wasn’t just resting his feet. There’s significance to the number 22, especially for enlisted service members and military veterans.
It’s the number of veterans who die from suicide every day.
According to Sharpe’s website, walkingmarine.com, “6,500 former military personnel killed themselves in 2012. More Veterans succumbed to suicide than were killed in Iraq. In 2012, 177 active-duty soldiers committed suicide, conversely 176 soldiers were killed in combat. In other words, more soldiers committed suicide compared to being killed in action. In 2012, the study concluded that Army had the highest number of suicides compared to any other service branch. In 2013, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, which showed that roughly 22 Veterans were committing suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes. This number has not changed and it is believed by some that due to under-reporting it can be as high as 27 per day.”
Even for a former Marine, at 68 years old, the gesture wasn’t easy.
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“My muscles will cramp, my legs will cramp and I’ll be miserable. But nothing compared to what some of these veterans are going through. My misery will be over in 22 hours. Their misery is 24/7,” Sharpe said.
It was worth it, however. Sharpe told Spectrum Local News that he intends to do even more to support his fellow veterans, and raise awareness of the mental issues that so commonly follow that demographic throughout life. The Walking Marine’s next project is working with the New Line Foundation, a non-profit that supports veterans, law enforcement, and other public service officials.
Learn more about Sharpe’s efforts in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.