KENTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Two soldiers from the Michigan National Guard set out on a journey this week, to walk across the entire Upper Peninsula in order to spread awareness of veteran suicides. Every day from May 13 until May 26, these two soldiers will be walking 22 miles, because on average, every day 22 veterans take their own lives.
Cody Cass (left) and Michael Beattie (right) on day 4 of their journey, pose for a photo near Kenton, Michigan.
"Nobody made us do this trip," said Cody Cass, First Lieutenant in National Guard. "It's something that we've wanted to do for a while, and we planned it out. End of December, I think, is when we started to get serious about it."
After months of training, Cass and Michael Beattie hit the road for their 308 mile walking journey to Sault Ste. Marie.
"We started in Ironwood and are averaging about 22 miles a day, because on average 22 veterans a day take their own lives," said Cass. "So we're getting the awareness out, and spreading the word, especially in the local area, so that hopefully we can reduce that number. Hopefully next time someone attempts to do this journey, they're walking less miles a day."
The soldiers are equipped with 55 pound backpacks filled with extra pairs of shoes, tents, clothing, and more. Add in the unpredictable weather, and this trip has been anything but a walk in the park.
"Well today is day 4, and overall it hasn't been too bad," said Michael Beattie, a Staff Sergeant. "We have been meeting a lot of nice people, stopping at local diners, and spreading the message. The long stretches kind of get quiet but we try to entertain each other."
Though this cross-UP trip for these soldiers is grueling, they say it's nothing compared to the pain some veterans live with everyday.
"In an institution, you know being in the military, there's kind of a 'macho' feeling to it," said Cass. "Some believe help is a sign of weakness, but it's really not. It takes a lot of strength and courage to reach out to those resources."
"Guys, if you need help, don't be afraid to ask," said Beattie. "There's plenty of people out there willing to listen."
The confidential Veteran Crisis Line can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting 838255. An online crisis chat can also be started on their website at veterancrisisline.net.
Another resource for veterans is maketheconnection.net, which connects vets with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives.
If you would like to follow along with Cass and Beattie's trek, photos and updates of their route are being posted to the Michigan National Guard Facebook Page. They will be following M-28 for the entire route, and if you happen to see them, you are welcome to stop, take a photo, and chat. However, since they're carrying all of their supplies on their backs, at this time they do not need any more supplies to add to their backpacks.