Veterans march to raise awareness of military suicides

(MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson) Military doctors Landon Steele, right, James Blumenschein, second from right, lead dozens of veterans on a 23-mile walk from the Richfield VFW to the State Capitol to the Uptown VFW in Minneapolis Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. By marching 23 miles, they are hoping to raise awareness of the 23 military veterans who kill themselves each day.

Dozens of veterans have embarked on a 23-mile walk to raise awareness about military suicides.  The march began Friday morning at the VFW on Lakeshore Drive South in Richfield where it was headed to the State Capitol in St. Paul before ending at the VFW in Uptown Minneapolis.

According to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately  18 to 22 veterans die from suicide every day in the United States.

Landon Steele, one of the organizers of the march who served as a combat medic in Iraq, said the number of suicides highlights the need for mental health services for vets.

“We’re just stepping up and raising awareness so that people know that when this war fighters are coming back and just because they aren’t missing legs or because they’re not all missing arms, they’re still wounded. They’re wounded inside,” he said.”

Steele said  five members of his former unit have died from suicide.