By TREVOR YOUNG
Tuesday, Mar. 27 was a dreary and overcast day, but out on the University Center Patio a message of hope and camaraderie was being spread. The Association of Student Veterans (ASV) was hosting its own version of the 22 Push-Up Challenge to raise awareness of veteran suicide rates.
Why 22 push-ups? In 2012, the Veterans Administration (VA) released a study that showed a staggering 22 veterans commit suicide everyday.
The 22 Push-Up Challenge is a social media campaign that works in a similar way to the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge, where participants use the hashtag #22pushupchallenge on social media to promote a message of love and support for our troops dealing with the tremendous difficulties of readjusting to life after service.
Participants in the #22pushupchallenge must perform 22 push-ups. Go figure. To many this may seem daunting, but the challenge of performing the task is meant to make the participant think about the challenges veterans face constantly, both physically and emotionally. When one considers the perspective of these vets, 22 push-ups seems like nothing.
But what about after the hashtag? What comes next? Marissa Howard, the secretary of the ASV, talked about further volunteering. “He [the founder of 22KILL] also created a charity organization called 22KILL,” said Howard. “22KILL, if you go to their website it basically says, ‘So you’ve done your 22 push-ups, now what?’ This is the sister organization to the hashtag. So that is why posting everything online with the hashtag is so important. Because it brings awareness, and it is also directly correlated to his organization. So they provide mental assistance to veterans and first responders and their families, and if they are impoverished they provide housing and food.”
22KILL offers a number of different programs veterans can get involved with to stay connected to one another and promote camaraderie. One program is Camp Valhalla, a veterans’ retreat focused on helping returning warriors reintegrate into society through consoling and brotherhood. Through 22KILL, veterans can also participate in the 22KILL Tribe, a national network of veterans working together to support one another.
While the challenges faced by veterans both abroad and at home can seem insurmountable, there are more and more programs such as 22KILL that can help soldiers overcome. Through campaigns such as the #22pushupchallenge we can all do our part to help spread love and awareness for the hardships faced by our American warriors.
Robert Martin, a sophomore studying sociology and a former Army Infantry Staff Sergeant, summed up the day.
“Some people are pretty reluctant to do their 22 push-ups, at first, but the idea is not really about the 22 push-ups,” said Martin. “It’s just about the effort going into it, so maybe it’ll get people thinking about young men and women out there that are having issues, having trouble. Hopefully people will take a second today and think, ‘You know what, that is an issue that needs to be recognized.’”