Several participants, including many children, joined Benton County Veterans Affairs Director Toni Parizek for the 23 to Zero Ruck on Saturday. Beginning at Veterans Park, the 5K walk was designed to raise awareness of the issue of suicides among active duty military personnel and veterans, and to offer information and support for those dealing with PTSD and other issues.

The ruck and  ended at the Veterans Memorial Park; participants walked 2.4 miles around town.  The Cedar Rapids Mobile Vet Center was also there to help give valuable resources to Veterans.

“The statistic is 22 Veterans and one Active Duty member dies every day from suicide,” says Parizek. “I asked Samantha Henry, who was in my unit in Iraq in 2008 (the Iowa National Guard 180 Military Police), to partner with me.  She is involved in an organization called Operation: 23 to Zero; their goal is to help raise awareness about Veterans Suicide and help end it.  I wanted to gather people from our Community together and give them resources on how to help themselves or someone whom they feel may be thinking of suicide.”

Parizek says veterans who are struggling with difficult issues have many great options for seeking help:

Benton County Veterans Affairs 319.472.3150

Vet’s Center in Cedar Rapids, free to combat Veterans and Veterans who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma 319.378.0016

Veterans Affairs 319.338.0581

Veterans Crisis Line 1.800.273.8255 and Press 1 for the Veterans line.

See more photos HERE.