U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics confirm 22 veterans a day are succumbing to suicide on American soil.
Most are due to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
With that in mind, The Warrior 110 program exists to raise awareness and funds for veterans suffering from physical and emotional ailments, according to thewarrior110.org.
Awareness and dollars are raised through ruck marches, which are weighted walks often used in military training that stretch for more miles, and various other events throughout the year.
Tax-deductible donations given to the not-for-profit organization fund its mission to help support America’s veterans who live with psychological, emotional and physical issues stemming from service to the country.
On Tuesday, The Warrior 110’s fourth annual ruck march started on the Kentucky side of the Big Four Bridge and continued for 32 miles until stopping in Scottsburg.
On Wednesday, Darrin Tissandier, Joey Alvey and Hahna Kunkel made it to Jackson County, walking along U.S. 31 through Crothersville and Uniontown before stopping in Seymour.
Thursday ended in Columbus, and Friday reached Franklin, where Alvey and his father, Brian, live. Brian is one of the founders of The Warrior 110.
At noon Saturday, the ruck concludes with a 10-mile walk from The Mint in Franklin to American Legion Post 252 in Greenwood.
“We welcome anybody that wants to join us to do the last day with us,” Tissandier said. “We typically have 15 to 20 people join us. We’re going to have a police escort. We’re going to have a Corvette club join us and escort us in. It’s going to be cool.”
Brian Alvey, a retired Army ranger, and Adam Smith, also in special forces, started The Warrior 110 in 2019.
“Brian owned a bar in Franklin, Adam owned a CrossFit gym in New Albany, so Brian came up with the idea he wanted to do something to help veterans that are suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and to bring awareness to the suicide rate of 22 a day,” Tissandier said. “They decided to do a road ruck from Adam’s business to Brian’s business, which is 110 miles, so The Warrior 110 came out of that.”
The first ruck march was in July 2019, and they learned that was a mistake due to the hot weather. So the next three years, the ruck has been conducted in November during the week of Veterans Day.
The event started in New Albany and ended in Franklin for the first three years but was changed to starting in Jeffersonville and ending in Greenwood this year.
Brian unfortunately became ill, so his son was able to join the ruck for the first time, and so was Tissandier’s daughter.
Tissandier is a U.S. Air Force veteran and lives in Georgetown.
Joey has been in the Indiana Army National Guard for a little more than a year and a half, including serving with Charlie Company 2-134 in Seymour since March.
“I grew up watching my dad struggle with (PTSD), and then I’m in and I know guys who have it, so it’s definitely something that’s important to me,” Joey said of why he joined the ruck.
Kunkel is a U.S. Air Force veteran and now is a nurse living in Alexandria, Kentucky. She walked the final 13 miles in last year’s ruck and decided to join for one day this year, too.
“Obviously, mental health and awareness is part of my career and my job, and then to support my dad because he gives a lot to help out and be a part of the organization,” she said.
During the ruck, they wear military-issued ruck sacks on their backs and carry two American flags and a Warrior 110 flag. People accompany them in a vehicle to hold some of their gear.
“When guys see you marching down the road with ruck sacks, they know you are veterans,” Tissandier said.
Along the way, people ask them what they are doing, and Tissandier hands them a Warrior 110 business card that includes the organization’s website and Facebook page link.
Last year, The Warrior 110 raised $60,000, and Tissandier said the money goes toward sending veterans and military personnel suffering from PTSD and other issues to Florida, where they spend a week receiving counseling, participating in recreational activities and talking to other veterans.
“When they get out of the military and come home from these wars, they are not just going to go right back to their lives seamlessly. Some of them obviously have a lot of issues,” he said.
“Brian has been through that program. That’s where he found out about it,” Tissandier said. “It helps a lot of guys deal with things. They’ll even send couples down, too. They’ll send the wife, as well, because the wives have to deal with a lot of the issues, as well.”
Joey and Hahna understand the importance of the organization and are glad to be part of the efforts.
“I just hope people realize how much of an issue it has become. A lot of veterans don’t feel like they can speak up,” Joey said.
“I think it’s good to bring awareness to people that don’t think about it but also people that are veterans just to see people do pay attention, there’s support out there in the system, they don’t have to silently suffer,” Hahna said.