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JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Stephen Grande will embark on quite a journey in a couple weeks, even though it will only be at the Johnston High School track.
The 35-year-old U.S. Navy veteran will be walking for 22 hours straight.
Grande said it’s to raise awareness of the struggles veterans face when returning to civilian life.
“My parents thought I was crazy, then they realized it was me they were talking to,” he said. “When I get something in my head, I’m going to get it done.”
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that 22 veterans die by suicide each day. The statistic equates to one veteran losing their life every 65 minutes.
Grande will be walking for Mission 22, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting veterans coming out of deployment, especially those struggling with PTSD, anxiety and depression.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to my brothers and sisters in arms,” Grande said.
“Just because they served in the military doesn’t mean they’re the toughest people out there,” he continued. “They are still humans and they deal with everyday life just like everyone else … some things might be a little bit tougher for them.”
Grande’s investment and dedication shows through his training. He typically wakes up before sunrise to get a few laps in and walks up to 60 miles per week.
“I’m driven and I’m motivated,” he said. “I’m going to get my 22-hour walk done.”
Getting out of the military is much harder than going in, according to Grande, because veterans don’t get proper training on how to return to civilian life.
“One day, you’re living with a plan, structure and routine,” Grande explained. “Then, the next day, you’re just out and back to being a regular Joe … you have to find a job and figure out how you’re going to live your life and provide for your family.”
“They don’t prepare you for that and it’s a lot that hits you at once,” he added.
When asked what will be going through his mind while walking the track, Grande’s answer was simple.
“I’ll be thinking about my fallen brothers and sisters,” he said, adding that he served with two men who later committed suicide. “They’re going to drive me throughout my 22-hour walk.”
Grande is inviting anyone in need of support to come down to the track and walk a few laps alongside him. His ultimate goal is to remind those who are struggling that they’re not alone.
“We can walk and forget about time and hopefully get a weight off their shoulders,” he said.
Grande will begin his walk at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 1. Those who wish to support his walk can donate here.
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