LYNCHBURG, Va. – With each step he takes, U.S. Army veteran Jarrad Turner is remembering those he’s lost.
“I’ve lost seven in combat, but I’ve lost 11 to suicide,” said Turner.
He’s with Shepherd’s Men, a group on a weeklong, seven-city journey.
They’re spending 22 hours at each stop while wearing 22-pound vests — representing 22 veterans who commit suicide in the United States each day.
The group started their Lynchburg leg of the tour Tuesday at noon, lapping around Monument Terrace, Ninth Street and part of Jefferson Street.
Co-founder Travis Ellis says they want to raise awareness about head injuries.
“Our mission is to advocate for and raise valuable dollars for a [traumatic brain injury] – [post-traumatic stress disorder] treatment program at a world-class, brain and spinal cord injury hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, called Shepherd Center,” said Ellis.
The treatment program is called the SHARE Military Initiative.
Master Sergeant Troy Campbell, Shepherd’s Men co-founder, says they want veterans to know they’re not alone.
“[We’re] getting veterans talking to each other, trying to reduce the stigma of TBI – PSTD from this, ‘hey, this veteran is a ticking time bomb. He or she is damaged goods,” said Campbell.
Turner graduated from the Atlanta-based treatment program. He was injured while serving in Iraq, which resulted in multiple surgeries.
“When I was at the VA receiving my treatment, I essentially was on three pages of medication, five sleep meds alone. I had five bleeding ulcers. The reality is I would not be here,” said Turner.
He credits the SHARE Military Initiative for saving his life and helping him continue his personal mission.
“The most important thing was for me to be able to come back home and be the best dad that I could,” said Turner.
Shepherd’s Men will end the Lynchburg leg of their tour at Monument Terrace Wednesday at 10 a.m.