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Troy students walking 123 miles to benefit wounded veterans

Dothan Eagle - 3/7/2017

For 37 Troy University students, writing a check to a charity wasn't enough. That's why they're walking from Troy to Panama City Beach, Florida to raise funds for a charity that provides hunting, fishing and socialization opportunities to wounded veterans.

Members of Alpha Tau Omega left Troy on Friday on the seventh annual "Walk Hard for Heroes" benefit. The 123-mile walk is intended to raise funds for Jeep Sullivan Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, an organization in Florida. Operated by Jeep Sullivan, the organization is a non-profit ministry that offers wounded veterans and their families opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at no cost to them.

Dash Merritt, a Troy student and director of the event, said the walk gives participants a small sample of the hardships veterans went through.

"One of our guys' feet are raw," he said. "But it's just a small taste of what the men and women overseas are doing for us."

Merritt said the walk makes the necessity of programs to benefit wounded veterans real to its participants and creates a solid commitment to this issue among them. Merritt said the walk is a way he and his fraternity brothers can do more than just a routine fundraiser.

"Don't get me wrong, that's still doing good, but for us, we decided to invest more than money, we decided to invest ourselves," he said.

Merritt said he is greatly concerned about the suicide rate among wounded veterans. According to the Veterans Administration, about 20 veterans end their own lives each day. In 2014, more than 7,400 veterans ended their lives, accounting for 18 percent of all U.S. suicides.

Merritt hopes that by providing opportunities like those offered by Jeep Sullivan, wounded veterans will better re-acclimate to life after the military.

Participation in the "Walk Hard" event has grown. It started with little more than a dozen students and has grown to more than 30 participants this year. The event will conclude Wednesday at Pier Park.


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