Iron Ruck marchers trekking from Auburn to Tuscaloosa for veteran suicide prevention

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 9:24 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The fifth annual Operation Iron Ruck kicked off from Jordan-Hare Stadium Wednesday morning. Over the next four days, student veterans at the University of Alabama and Auburn University will march to raise awareness for veteran suicide prevention.

The 151-mile journey from Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn to Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa comes ahead of the biggest rivalry game of the year: the Iron Bowl.

“You could be anywhere right now, doing any kind of anything with your family and friends but decided to come walk across the state of Alabama with us, and I appreciate that a lot,” said Clayton Buchanan with the Auburn Student Veterans Association.

This year’s march concludes Saturday morning at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Marchers from UA’s Crimson Legion and the Auburn Veterans Service Association will carry 22 blank dog tags and wear 22-pound rucksacks that contain donated items that the students will deliver to charities that assist Alabama’s veteran population.

Auburn representatives, including interim head coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, were there to send the marchers off.

“I truly appreciate everything that you all do for this country and wish you all luck on this hike,” Williams said.

This year’s Iron Ruck hits close to home for both schools. Last year, Auburn lost Navy veteran Josh Marshall to suicide. And within the past two weeks, Alabama lost Marine Corps veteran Hunter Whitley.

“Hunter had been dealing with the loss of life of some of those he had served with in the Marines, the invisible wounds of war. It is important that we remember both Josh and Hunter, as well as the other veterans affected by those invisible wounds,” said Kent Davis, who serves as the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs and co-chair of Alabama’s Challenge.

If you or a loved one are battling depression or having thoughts of suicide, you are encouraged to call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 to speak to trained counselors and access immediately available resources.

You can keep up with this year’s walk at www.avastore.com and on Instagram at WarDamnVeterans.

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