The number 22 may not mean a lot to you, but it does mean a lot to veterans Joseph Cox and Adam Lingo.
For 22 weeks, Cox and Lingo will walk across the U.S. to raise awareness for the approximate 18 to 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.
Their journey began a year ago when Lingo asked if Cox would be interested in walking across America.
“Within a few seconds, I was stupid enough to say, 'Hey I'll do it.'," said Cox. "Then we had some more things go on and lost some more friends. We said, 'If we are going to do this, let’s give it a little more purpose.'"
Their purpose is to start a conversation about veteran mental health.
"We never left a fallen man behind in combat. Why would we do it at home?" said Cox.
Along the route, Cox is giving out cards for Give an Hour, a nonprofit which will find a counselor in a veteran's area and give him or her free counseling for one hour.
"It really makes a lot of sense, you know. You stop and think about the friendships and the brotherhood," said Cox. "If we aren’t willing to give 10 or 15 minutes here, then is it really a true brotherhood? Friendship really becomes a friendship when you get up and give when someone’s in need. You give that 20 minutes, it might give you 20 more years with that person."
With both men suffering from health issues–Cox had a heart attack a few years ago, and Lingo needs shoulder surgery–they both felt that keeping a truck nearby in case of emergency was necessary.
The truck has also been helpful in terms of planning the route, due to the fact that much of Route 66 has been taken over by Interstate 40, so sometimes it is necessary to bypass certain areas.
"Since it's two of us, what we end up doing is we end up splitting the mileage for the day. We do four-mile legs," said Lingo. "In the military we call it a bounding over watch, the buddy system. I cover you, you cover me."
Cox and Lingo are already on their third week and plan to walk along Route 66 and U.S. Route 50 until they reach Washington D.C.
"That’s kind of the way life is," said Lingo. "The whole goal is to make it to the end, and how you make it there is up to you. "
If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some resources.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK(8255)
The Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
You can also chat online by clicking [here] or you can send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.