Last year Cody Stiles and Amy Carpenter put their heads together and began planning a 22-mile walk to raise awareness for suicides among veterans. On a breezy November morning last fall, nearly 100 people came together to participate in the walk. Whether walking only a portion of the planned route or finishing all 22-miles, it was a showing of unity while walking for awareness of a heartbreaking statistic.
It was once state by the Department of Veterans Affairs that everyday 22 veterans succumb to suicide. While the number has changed in recent years, the goal and message remains the same. Raising awareness for suicide prevention is a message everyone can be active and on board with.
The 22-mile walk has been scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, September 12 and will begin at 8 a.m. While several from across the entire county as well as across the State of Iowa and into Missouri joined in the walk last year, route changes were looked into.
“We looked into beginning at Seymour, but we came up short with just 18 miles and when we looked into a Humeston starting point, it was short also with around 14 miles only,” said Stiles. “We wanted to keep the walk at 22-miles, so we decided we would leave the same route in place as last year.”
“People can join in or exit the walk at their own will easily with this route as well, so that was also important,” Stiles added.
Those looking to participate will meet at the Lineville City Park where the National Anthem will kick off the those joining the walk. The route will move from Lineville into Clio, then will lead into Allerton before finishing up at the Freedom Rock located at the southwest corner of the Corydon Courthouse square.
“I know 22-miles seems like a long ways and for some it isn’t doable, but it is meant to be hard and not easy,” Stiles said. “That is part of the message we are wanting to get across for the suicide awareness with veterans. It isn’t easy.”
Carpenter will be driving her side-by-side this year with her sons, Dane and Knox joining along. Anyone wishing to join the walk, but physically unable to do so are welcome to drive alongside the walkers and bring their children to join in the event.
“I imagine a Veteran’s Day program may not be possible this year at schools due to COVID, so this is a way kids are able to join in as well and be involved,” Stiles added.
Due to the COVID pandemic, Stiles and Carpenter remained in contact this past year wondering how plans may be affected for this year’s walk.
“When local businesses were shut down we weren’t sure how to proceed,” said Stiles. “Amy said she had heard from several people that were looking forward to the walk again, so we knew we had to move forward in a safe manner. So we are working around COVID and with people talking and planning, that is spreading the message right there with awareness.”
Stiles and Carpenter both say this wouldn’t be possible without the help and effort from so many.
“Barney Ogden has been great for me to bounce ideas off of for this and Robert Davis has also been a big asset helping Amy secure sponsors for us,” said Stiles. “Amy worked organizing the t-shirt orders for us and they have turned out great.”
The company USMorgCo has worked to create and print t-shirts that were sold ahead of the walk. Both Stiles and Carpenter have received some of these orders, while anyone that has placed an order and hasn’t received their shirt yet is able to pick theirs up the morning before the walk.
Raffle tickets for a wagon wheel bench are currently being sold as well with the bench drawing to be held following the walk. The bench was made by Stiles and Shane Downs with Greg Clapham offering free personalization on the bench to the winner. The winner does not need to be present at the drawing.
Last year’s walk raised just under $10,000 and the money was donated to the VA Domiciliary in Des Moines to help local veterans receive treatment and help needed. All funds being raised this year will be donated to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
“Tunnel to Towers Foundation builds mortgage-free smart homes for our most catastrophically injured veterans,” Stiles stated. “Each home is designed to address the unique needs of each individual. Smart homes host a myriad of features such as automated doors and lightning, wider halls and doorways, special showers to accommodate wheelchairs, automatic door openers, cabinets, counters and stovetops that can be raised or lowered, backup generators and central heating and air conditioning systems that can be controlled by tablets.”
“Tunnel to Towers also aims to pay off the mortgages of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty that leave behind young children with their goal being to ensure stability and security to these families facing sudden and tragic loss,” Stiles added. “We felt like this would be a great organization to donate to that supports veterans, law enforcement, fire departments and first responders.”
This year, there will bottled water available courtesy of Rathbun Rural Water Association as well as prepackaged snacks. There will not be a meal held at the American Legion in Corydon like last year however. Snacks stations will be set up at the Clio Baptist Church and Allerton Fire Station. Anyone helping with these stations will be taking proper sanitary measures.
“Many things will remain the same as last year, minus the homemade goodies and meal we had,” Stiles stated.
Masks are recommended, however not required. Those planning to attend are asked to remain distanced from other groups when meeting at the Lineville City Park just before the walk begins.
“I did reach out to a doctor to get feedback if this would be possible considering the COVID issues and was told with us being outdoors with fresh air and the social distancing that happens naturally when walking at different paces, he felt it was very doable,” said Stiles.
“There’s been a lot of bad things happening in America now and I would love to see several join in with us and fly their American flags in their side-by-sides as well to show how proud we are of our country,” Stiles said in closing. “The main thing we are wanting, is to do something positive right now. Awareness is people talking about veteran suicides, so that is already happening with this walk and donations raised as well as the conversations about it all.”