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A High School Senior’s Mission To Stop Soldier Suicide

Americans will be sporting patriotic attire and honoring the brave men and women who have fought overseas to defend our country on the Fourth of July. But this Independence Day, one Delaware high school senior is launching a nationwide initiative — “22 in 22” — to raise money and awareness to help put an end to solider suicide.

22 in 22 is a “fitness fundraiser” that will begin on the Fourth of July for a duration of 22 days. Its purpose is to bring recognition to the 22 veterans and 1 active soldier who commit suicide daily.

Jacob DiSabatino is a rising senior at St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, Del. He is passionate about pursuing a career in the military after completing his college education. But until he can do so, Jacob wanted to support the U.S. military in another form.

“I always had a deep respect for the military,” DiSabatino told The Daily Caller. “There are guys over there nearly dying everyday for our country. And the thought that 22 of them take their lives everyday when they come back here, it tugged at my heart.”

“And as someone who’d like to go into the military, honestly those statistics scared me a little bit,” Jacob said.

Essentially, participants will “run, walk, cycle, practice yoga, swim, roll, hop, skip or jump 22 miles in 22 days,” and all proceeds will go directly to Stop Soldier Suicide — a nonprofit dedicated to military suicide prevention.

“Burdened with the stigma associated with mental health issues and the military “shame” surrounding PTS (Post Traumatic Stress),” Stop Soldier Suicide said on its website. “They instead turn to suicide as their only option to relieve suffering.”

Founded in 2006 by Brian Kinsella — a second lieutenant and platoon leader who stopped the suicide of a young soldier in his command — Stop Soldier Suicide provides a lifeline of free resources to help alleviate the stresses that come with having served overseas.

Although the nonprofit has seen a 466 percent increase in the number of military personnel contacting them, Stop Soldier Suicide has not been able to acquire the funds to function 24/7, nor has its telephone system.

Joining Jacob in his efforts to stop soldier suicide through fitness are Delaware Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, as well as Brigadier General Thomas Weidley, president of the U.S. Marine Corps University and chief of staff for the Combined Joint Task Force leading the fight against ISIS.

“I’ve been challenging other elected officials to get involved as well,” Coons said in an interview with Comcast Newsmakers. “[22 in 22] is just a way for us to raise visibility, to raise funds, to improve engagement in the issue of stopping soldier suicide.”

The day before the campaign’s launch on July 4, the Wilmington Blue Rocks — a Minor League Baseball team based in Delaware — will sponsor and promote 22 in 22 on their July 3rd game. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the cause.

Even “C.S.I. New York” actor Gary Sinise — who starred alongside Tom Hanks as Lieutenant Dan in “Forest Gump” — heard about the campaign and pledged to get involved as well.

“This is really close to [Jacob’s] heart,” sister Jacqueline DiSabatino told TheDC. “He’s a really good kid and would do anything to help anyone so this right up his alley.”

After graduating college, Jacob hopes to join the Army. He says, however, that he is not too picky about which branch he pursues, so long as he can just be in the military.

Jacob, along with all of his supporters, are hopeful people will honor our nation’s soldiers and veterans by joining in on the effort to stop soldier suicide this Fourth of July. He also hopes those who participate will spread the word on Twitter and Facebook to continue to bring attention to this national issue.

“My goal is to save lives,” Jacob told TheDC when asked if he had a fundraising goal. “Even if I can save just one life by spreading the word about soldier suicide through 22 in 22, that’s my goal.”

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