A woman from upstate New York was out for an evening walk when she came face-to-face with something she did not expect. Stacy Kieper was shocked to see a young man dressed as a soldier, carrying a camo-clad skeleton.
The young man was out of breath and emotional. He was walking around, trying to get people’s attention, personifying a heartbreaking reality that 22 veterans succumb to each day.
Curiosity piqued, Kieper asked the Army veteran what he was doing. Fighting back tears, the soldier explained that he had lost yet another comrade to suicide, and he was walking to raise awareness about the awful statistic of 22 veterans who commit suicide each day.
“If you see this man walking in Troy, he has fought for our country,” Kieper wrote on her now-viral Facebook post. “And is still fighting for his brothers and sisters. By far one of the most amazing & beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
The mystery man is John Newcomb, who took up the cause of advocating for veterans who are feeling depressed, lost, and on the brink of suicide. Newcomb’s movement, “You Are Never Too Heavy I Will Carry You,” is gaining momentum across the country since he first began his 22-day march in October.
“22 is too many, 1 is still too many,” Newcomb posted on Facebook. As he marches, Newcomb wears a sign on his back that reads, “You are never too heavy! I will carry you!”
People everywhere are impressed with Newcomb’s message and are getting involved with his noble cause. Many personally know the loss Newcomb is experiencing and have friends or family who have become part of that harrowing statistic.
Newcomb encourages his listeners to help care for veterans simply by reaching out and checking on vets in their communities before it’s too late. “You never know when you might be beside a veteran,” Holcomb said, “someone who has served our country, someone who has seen the horrors of war.”
While his initial 22-day march is over, Newcomb says the battle has just begun. The money Newcomb raised was donated toward scholarship funds for children affected by veteran suicide, and the soldier is working to channel future funds to help veterans who are in immediate danger of taking their own lives.
Newcomb says the movement is much bigger than himself, and it’s up to Americans to keep the momentum going by sharing this story and raising awareness of veteran suicide. Have gentle, loving talks with veterans you know to make sure they are transitioning back into life with a healthy frame of mind. One is still too many.
This is something all of us can participate in. We can take up the cause and march on with what Newcomb started: one person reached might just be one person saved.