BRICK TOWNSHIP — Hundreds of walkers, many bearing the weight of military-style rucksacks, will take to the streets Saturday, marching a total of 22 kilometers [13.6 miles] to raise awareness of the 22 military veterans who commit suicide daily.
The march, known as Operation Ruck-It, is hosted by local veteran advocacy organization Ma Deuce Deuce [MA22], a 501[c] nonprofit organization that helps veterans who are struggling with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD].
“My Deuce Deuce is basically a hub for veterans,” co-founder and president Dennis Addesso said this week. He founded the organization with his brother-in-law and a few others after they found the treatment they were receiving inadequate to what they really needed.
“We started MA22 to let veterans know that there’s stuff out there that’s not the VA. By now, we’re in our third year, there’s nothing we can’t do for a veteran.”
The name “Ma Deuce Deuce,” is a twist on a commonly used .50 caliber machine gun, the M2, which Mr. Addesso said they would call “ma deuce.”
He incorporated the number 22 into the name to bring awareness to the 22 veterans that take their own lives daily. This year’s Ruck-It will put that number loudly on display this weekend.
The crowd will leave from VFW Post 8867, 373 Adamston Road, at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, before marching down Mantoloking Road, over the bridge and south on Route 35 before returning the same way.
In its first year, the Ruck raised over $7,000 and had around 160 participants. Last year it raised over $53,000 with 260 participants. This year, Mr. Addesso said, they have at least 360 people signed up, and are predicting to raise well over $50,000.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s an amazing event,” Mr. Addesso said. “I spend a lot of time crying just seeing the fruits of your labor, the hearts and minds of people that come. Our community has just trusted us immensely and it feels amazing to have that trust that we can continue our vision, which is to spread the word of these other organizations and help restore the hearts of our veterans.”
This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.