Governor Kay Ivey recently signed a proclamation declaring Wednesday as Operation Iron Ruck Day in honor of the veteran suicide awareness march from the University of Alabama to Auburn University.

Student veterans from both schools participate in the four-day, 151-mile ruck march from Auburn to Tuscaloosa while carrying 22-pound rucksacks. The march will begin at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn on Wednesday and end at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl on Saturday. 

Those rucksacks contain donated items the students will deliver to Bill Nichols State Veterans Home, Mission 22, Tuskegee Veteran's Assisted Living Centers and Three Hots and a Cot.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for post-9/11 veterans in the United States, with 125,000 veterans taking their own lives since 2001. Each year since 9/11 has had over 6,000 veteran deaths by suicide.

Alabama veterans are 10% of the state's population while representing a disproportionate number of suicides, comprising 18% of the state's total suicide deaths.

Operation Iron Ruck partners with Alabama's Challenge for Preventing Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families. The suicide prevention campaign is comprised of the Governor's Office, the Alabama Legislature and several state departments, including the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Alabama National Guard and other nonprofits.

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