BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Every day, 20 veterans are lost through suicide. Sometimes, it’s the result of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or the feeling of isolation in returning to civilian life.
Army veteran Jason Graven understands the challenges that veterans face, so in 2016, he founded Task Force 20, a nonprofit that provides funds for veterans to “train, compete and survive together.”
“The main objective is to stop the suicide pandemic. There’s a direct correlation to mental health and exercise,” said Graven, a 1998 Anthony Wayne High School graduate who enlisted in the Army shortly after 9/11.
For some veterans, especially those living on a fixed income, finding the funds to pay for a gym membership is out of the question. Task Force 20 raises those funds and works with fitness facilities to provide free memberships for veterans.
On Sunday, June 27 – PTSD Awareness Day – Task Force 20 is presenting Operation: Stronger Together, a 5K race and veterans’ resource event in downtown Whitehouse.
Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. for the race at Veterans Memorial Park. At 10:30 a.m., U.S. Marine Cpl. Micah Herndon will speak about how he ran the 2019 Boston Marathon in honor of three close friends who died in 2010 while serving on a mission he led in Afghanistan. Nearing the end of the race, Herndon experienced Achilles tendon issues and crawled to the finish line while saying their names. He has become known as the “No-Quit” Marine.
The race begins at 11:00 a.m. at Whitehouse Park and winds around Whitehouse.
From 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Whitehouse Park pavilion, several organizations and businesses will be set up for a Veterans’ Resource Fair, including the Women Veterans Initiative, HOOVES, Bowling Green State University’s Student Vets, Squadron 384, Little Blessings and the Black Swamp Hospice Veteran Partnership as well as veteran-owned businesses, including Local Thyme, Glass City Graphix, Warrior Wings, Iron Bean Coffee, Revitalize Fitness, Freedom Whiskey Co. and Bublick Construction.
The race sign-up fee of $25.00 will not only help Task Force 20 in providing fitness-related activities, but it will also benefit participating organizations that assist veterans.
“Not everybody is going to find their healing through lifting heavy things at a gym. That’s why we are including other organizations so that people can find resources. Civilians can find resources to direct a family member or friend to if they recognize some of the symptoms of PTSD,” Graven said.
Since its formation, Task Force 20 has been able to raise funds to pay for 70 veterans to get memberships in gyms of their choice, at a cost of about $500 each.
“We’d like to pair gym memberships with personal training. If they have someone to hold them accountable and show them the proper way to exercise and stay involved and motivated, we’ll see a better success rate and they’ll stay in the program the entire year,” said Graven.
Participation in the race isn’t necessary to take part in the resource fair. Veterans who take part in the race can enjoy a free lunch, courtesy of Local Thyme, at the American Legion following the race.
To register online for the race, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Whitehouse/tf20vets. Those who register by Thursday, June 10 will be guaranteed a T-shirt. The race cost is $25.00.