LAKEWOOD, NY (WNY News Now) — This month, two Chautauqua County veterans have set out on a trek to raise awareness and funding to stop soldier suicide.
Veterans Andrew Simko and Chad Danler embarked on the challenge this week, walking around five miles per day in their Lakewood neighborhood until they reach their 60 mile goal.
“PTSD doesn’t just happen in a combat zone,” explained Simko. “I was a Military Policeman, so I saw suicides, domestics, things that I carry for the rest of my life. So PTSD isn’t combat only related, and in Chautauqua County we have about a 10 percent veteran population. So, just bringing the focus that there’s guys out there that are dealing with things that you can’t see, you can’t touch, you can’t hear, but they deal with on a daily basis, just trying to show that there is support.”
Every day nationwide over 20 veterans lose their lives due to suicide. For Simko, he is doing everything he can to support his fellow soldier.
“This is a way to overcome my disabilities,“ said Simko. “And to show others that these disabilities can be overcome, and you can move forward.”
Originally, the two wanted to raise only $250 dollars as they pledged to walk 60 miles.
“B.E. Strong 716 partnered with us once they found out we were doing this, and increased our goal by ten times,“ explained Simko. “In order to raise $2,000 dollars for stopsoldiersuicide.org.”
In addition, the duo received support from REDCON1 providing vitamin and electrolyte supplements to help keep them going.
Stop Soldier Suicide is a veteran-led, non VA affiliated, nonprofit that focuses on the mental health and wellness of vets. They have the ultimate goal of reducing the rate of military suicide by 40 percent by the end of the decade.