Marchers focus attention on veteran suicide in "Carry the Fallen" event

Marchers focus attention on veteran suicide in "Carry the Fallen" event

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Veterans and non-veterans put on heavy military backpacks Saturday morning and walked from Petal High School to downtown Hattiesburg to focus attention on the issue of veteran suicide.

About three dozen people participated in a three-hour, "Carry the Fallen" ruck march, which went from Petal to Veterans Memorial Park and then on to the Lacy Kelly VFW.

"Carry the Fallen" marches help raise funds for the "Active Heroes" organization, which is attempting to build a national retreat for military families.

Some march participants lost their family members to suicide.

"For us to walk through town and to be there to support this, that's all there is, that's just one step toward reducing (the total of) 22 veterans a day that commit suicide," said Stephanie Lembo, team leader for the march. Her husband, a Navy petty officer, committed suicide five years ago.

"It helped me feel better about my situation and helped me feel that I'm not alone and my children aren't alone," said Somer Burgess, an Atlanta resident who drove to South Mississippi to participate in the march. Her husband, who was a veteran, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2007. "It's been a long and lonely road, so it's just finally nice to feel like a part of a group again."

Lembo said another similar march is being planned for next Spring.