Operation Continue Service, a veterans support group, held a 20-mile Remembrance Ruck March on May 7.
According to nonprofit co-founder Melvin Gatewood, a native of Columbus, the ruck bringing awareness to veterans suicide started at 6 a.m. at First John Missionary Baptist Church, where Pastor Thomas Boyd prayed with the participants for a safe journey. A ruck is a walk with a weighted backpack.
Besides Gatewood, other people participating in the march along Highway 82 to raise awareness of veteran suicides were Shalonda Gatewood, Dr. Ronald Gatewood, Marcus Bobbett, Addison Washington, Starkville Assistant Police Chief Henry Stewart and Desmond Washington.
“We had several stops along the way, including the Hickory Grove exit where Chris Taylor from American Legion Post 240 in Starkville gave us water and Gatorade,” Melvin Gatewood said. “He also met us at the Meridian/ Tupelo exit.”
The group was also assisted by members of Evening Star Lodge No. 10 at the GTR airport and Macon/Meridian exits in Lowndes County.
After arriving in Columbus, the community greeted the group, which proceeded to the Veterans Resource Fair held at the soccer complex. Several Veterans Administration groups, mental health centers and veteran support organizations were in attendance.