‘We don’t do it alone’

American Legion Post 539 in New Bern, N.C., demonstrates how it can “Be the One” in numerous ways, including its annual March for the 22 fundraiser.

Those efforts tie into the new American Legion Be the One campaign, which aims to reduce the veteran suicide rate by empowering veterans and civilians to take the appropriate action to save the life of one veteran.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. And The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast is dedicating each episode this month to raising awareness, identifying solutions and highlighting research related to the veteran suicide epidemic. This week’s guests are Post 539 Commander Liz Hartman and member Adin Colon, who have worked to launch the post’s annual event.

The march, which aims to raise awareness and lower the suicide rate, began in 2020 with 10 people hiking 22 miles. Last year, the event grew to over 230. Each participant also carries a 22-pound ruck for the entire distance.

Retired Army Sgt. Colon received a Bronze Star and was deployed four times during his post 9/11 service. He is credited with conceiving the idea for the March for the 22.

Colon intended to walk the 22 miles solo as a way to support veterans. When he told Hartman, a Marine Corps veteran, she helped him craft a bigger vision.

“We don’t run. We don’t do it alone. We do it together, this entire miserable, gruesome distance,” Hartman said. “Twenty-two miles, hiking side by side, even if you are a stranger by the end of it you are best friends. It really bonds you. And that is what our whole mission was.”

She expects 500 people for this year’s March for the 22, which is held on Veterans Day. Learn more about the event.

Other recent episodes related to this topic include: 

• To kick off Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Tango Alpha Lima welcomed Dr. David Rudd, a psychologist with the Army’s 2nd Armored Division during the Gulf War, has been studying the issue for decades. In this episode, he discusses current research, Be the One and more. 

• A bonus podcast episode recorded last month at the 103rd American Legion national convention, VA Secretary Denis McDonough discussed Be the One and other topics. Catch the episode here. 

More than 140 Tango Alpha Lima episodes are all available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available for viewing at the Legion’s YouTube channel.