“Over 180 service members serving in the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) strapped up their boots and packed their rucks in preparation for a road march at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, July 29.

The march concluded with no badges meeting each marcher at the end, but something potentially more meaningful, as they participated in the second iteration of the 22K for 22 a Day Suicide Awareness March.

While the Soldiers ensured their rucks met the minimum 22 kilogram weight limit, the weight on their shoulders pale in comparison to what some Soldiers and Veterans bear on theirs – the thought of suicide.

For Gordon Pullen, a retired Army master sergeant and current site manager for Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions at Camp Bondsteel, bringing awareness to the challenges veterans face when they return home is an important issue.

‘We are losing service members at an alarming rate due to suicide and any light shed on the subject is a good thing,’ said Pullen, a native of Clearwater, Florida. ‘We look at suicide as a weakness and Soldiers are reluctant to come forward and share. The issue is not something new, it’s been around since Vietnam and before. In my opinion, we need to create an environment so someone can come forward and share without causing damage to their careers.’” (DVIDS)