A mile (or 22) in their shoes: Veterans walk raises suicide awareness

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 5, 2024

SALISBURY — In the United States, approximately 22 veterans take their lives every day. 

For Alecia Judd, that is 22 too many.

Judd is a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter. She was in Kings Mountain on a 2.2-mile walk organized by Mission 22, a veterans service organization last year when she had a realization. 

“As I was finished with that walk, I said that it was not painful enough,” Judd explained.  

Veterans’ mental health is exceedingly meaningful to Judd. As such, she wanted to go a step further and put herself in the shoes of fellow veterans who were suffering

“I did not feel like the 2.2-mile walk was significant enough for the pain that the veterans go through,” Judd said.  

That’s when she got the idea to do a 22-mile walk. 

Thus, Supreme Strides — Veteran Suicide Awareness Walk 2024 was born. 

Judd and fellow Military Order of the Cootie members got to work to organize the event.

The Military Order of the Cootie is comprised of officers and leadership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Membership in the MOC is a recognition of outstanding service to the VFW and its programs.

Founded in New York City on Sept. 17, 1920, the MOC is based on the principles of good humor and fun. Over the past 90 years, the Cooties have provided social and entertainment programs to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. as an Ancillary unit within the organization.

Throughout their undertaking, Judd noted the organizers decided not to exclude or discourage anyone. So when they drafted the idea for the event, it became a one to 22-mile walk, with participants urged to do as much as they could.

The event took place at Dan Nicholas Park on April 27. A lap around the pond at Dan Nicholas Park is estimated to be one mile, so the complete walk would take 22 laps. 

Four people, all veteranswalked the entire 22 miles: Mike Judd, Elias Garza, Victor Letourneaut and Joseph Ashmore.

“You guys are superstars,” Judd said. 

Disappointingly, Judd broke her foot shortly before the big day and was unable to participate.  

Judd was happy to report that the event was successful in that it raised nearly $10,000. 

“Most of the money is going to Dog Tags 4 Life,” Judd said.

Dog Tags 4 Life is an organization with the mission to spread the word about the Veterans Crisis Line (Dial 988, then press 1) using dog tags containing the information.

“I think almost every veteran knows someone who has taken their life,” Judd said. 

Judd thanked her partners who helped organize the event.

“Thank you to our SSS and fearless leader of the Cooties, Mark Larkin, and my two partners in crime, Grand Commander Tim Woods and Supreme Historian Rob Caudill,” she said. “The three of us planned, executed, and rocked the event.”

Judd noted that Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander also came out to talk and walk. 

“Post Commander Anthony Rogers hosted the after-walk meal at his VFW post in Rockwell,” she added. “The food was amazing. Too many people to thank. Everyone worked so hard to help this event be successful.”