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'A lot of us battle the same demons'

Matt DeYoung • Apr 28, 2018 at 7:00 AM

Twenty-two veterans take their own lives every day, according to statistics. 

To fellow veterans such as Bart Gramek, that’s a staggering number, so he and some friends set off to raise awareness and support for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

They’re walking 92 miles in hopes that their hardships along the way will bring light to the hardships many veterans suffer with constantly. 

“We started out in Marne and should finish off in Ludington on Sunday,” Gramek said Friday in Grand Haven. “We’re walking to raise awareness for PTSD and suicide. A lot of us battle the same demons, and we’re trying to let other veterans know that they’re not alone. Some of the pain we endure during the walk is nothing compared to what they endure every day.”

Gramek, a Coopersville resident who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq, is being joined on the walk by fellow veterans David Krajewski, Gary Tenhaaf, Eric Graham and Krstan Green — all of whom are veterans living in Michigan. 

The five veterans began their walk on Thursday and received plenty of attention as they walked through Nunica, Spring Lake and eventually to the American Legion post in Grand Haven with flags attached to their packs proudly waving in the wind. 

“It was a lot of support along the way,” Gramek said. “It was non-stop honking, people showing us support.”

Any veteran was invited to participate, and non-veterans are also welcome to join and walk for a portion of the trip. 

Their walk is part of the 92 for 22 movement, which originated in Michigan in April 2017 when a group of veterans decided to walk 92 miles from Comstock Park to Cadillac to raise awareness of veteran suicide and the effects of PTSD. A total of 11 veterans participated in the walk and raised $6,644. This money was donated to Help For Our Disabled Troops (HFODT), a privately funded non-profit organization that adapts homes for injured veterans as well as helping with therapeutic accommodations.

During that first 92-mile walk, the idea for a nonprofit to help veterans in need was born.

According to the 92 for 22 website, “The more organizations that exist, the more veterans can be helped. Our goal is to continue to raise awareness that the average number of veterans that commit suicide each day is 22. By bringing awareness to the community about the struggles that veterans have, we hope to keep this subject top of mind.”

Donations and sponsorships are available on the group’s website, www.92for22.org. 

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