News

March planned to create awareness of veteran suicides

Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

Jacob Schaefers and walkersThe statistics are sobering – as many as 22 veterans commit suicide each day. This is 1.5 times higher than for non-veterans, based on 2017 statistics.

Those deaths impact an estimated 135 additional people per individual -- family and friends and acquaintances, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Jacob Schaefers, a Marine Corps veteran, is one of those 135 who has been personally affected by suicide. He knew two fellow Marines who have committed suicide.

After these deaths, Schaefers was motivated to participate in awareness marches held around the country, but none were local, so in 2017 he planned his own march, a 22-mile hike from Madison to the Broadwater Bar on Lake Madison. Some friends and family joined him in 2018. This year, because the Broadwater is closed due to fall flooding, he is planning his annual Veteran Suicide Awareness March at Trojan Field on Saturday, November 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Schaefers’ goal with the march is to “get the word out” and help those who are considering hurting themselves to know that there are people who care about them.

“Just call or text anyone,” he said, “just reach out and talk to someone.”

The event is free and open to the public; the goal is to do 22 laps for the number of veterans who commit suicide each day, but participants can do as many laps as they wish. The 22 laps add up to only 5.5 miles.

There are also ways to contribute financially to the awareness march.  All donations will be given to Mission 22, a non-profit organization dedicated to healing America’s veterans. These funds will help Mission 22 provide programs for veteran treatment programs, memorials, and national awareness. Several area businesses, including Bei Capelli, East River Electric, First Madison Insurance, Sundog Coffee, Stadium Sports Grill, and the VFW, have donated funds for t-shirt sales at the march. The Stadium will also donate $1 for every tall beer or double drink ordered from 1 – 5 p.m. to Mission 22. In addition, donations can be made at Wells Fargo to the Madison Veterans March account.

Schaefers is a 2018 DSU alumnus, with a major in cyber operations. A South Dakota native, he now works for East River Electric in IT.