Friday, 20 October 2017 19:21

Group hikes 22 miles for each veteran lost to suicide every day Featured

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HARRINGTON - Veterans with a group called INTERNITY are hiking 22 miles to help raise awareness for veterans who have taken their own lives.

Friday, a group of veterans geared up for a three day ruck.

"A ruck is different than a hike. A hike you just get up and go, but a ruck means that you are doing it in memory of someone or for a cause," said Dr. Ruth Moore, founder of INTERNITY, a veterans' resource center in Machias.

They'll hike 22 miles for the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide.

"Twenty-two a day is too many," said John "Hoppy" Hoppman, a U.S. Army veteran.

These veterans are raising awareness with every step while carrying 45 pounds on their backs.

"A lot of our veterans who do commit suicide, they have a lot of weight on them when they come back from wars, from seeing their buddies blown up or having physical trauma themselves," said Stephen Albee, a U.S. Navy veteran. "So we carry the weight to recognize that."

This isn't a fundraiser. The goal is to get service members outside to benefit from outdoor activity.

"We want to be able to teach our veterans about alternative therapies, give them alternatives to suicide, connect them with other veterans, let them develop a peer support network," said Dr. Moore.

"It's going to be fun, going to be camaraderie again, kinda like it was when I was in," said Hoppman.

They're letting their military brothers and sisters suffering from PTSD know they're not alone.

"This is a way of life for us, we had to change everything we knew when we got out of the service," Dr. Moore.

"I came back with a sound mind, but I want to be able to help others that didn't come back with a sound mind," said Albee.

"I think it's important we always support out veterans when they're in need," said Randi McKechnie, a U.S. Navy veteran.

The group will arrive in Machias on Sunday afternoon.

Kayla Fish

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Kayla joined the ABC 7 & FOX 22 news team in May of 2017. She got into journalism because she loves talking with people, and she's incredibly grateful to share the stories of Mainers throughout the region.

She got her start in broadcasting way back in middle school as a member of a morning announcements TV broadcast club, and her love for the news industry took off from there.

Kayla graduated from Penn State University in 2017 with degrees in broadcast journalism and Spanish. During her time as a student at Penn State, Kayla was an executive producer and reporter for the "Centre County Report", an Emmy award-winning student-run newscast. She studied abroad in Ronda, Spain and traveled to Panama with an international reporting class. Kayla kept busy in college, spending four years working as a student manager in the dining hall.

Kayla grew up in the village of Shawnee-on-Delaware, located in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, so transitioning into life in Vacationland was a piece of cake! A self-described winter fanatic, she loves all things snow related, including hitting the slopes on her snowboard. She also likes hiking, kayaking or doing anything outdoors. She loves meeting new people so if you see her around, be sure to stop and say hi!