HENDERSON COUNTY, Texas — As we celebrate America's independence, you may be barbecuing or hitting the lake. But one group of veterans came to Cedar Creek Lake with something other than celebrating on their minds.
In the intense heat on Monday, a pair of veterans with the 82nd Airborne Division Association Dallas Ft Worth North Texas Chapter are preparing to for a long walk. They’re former paratroopers who took to the skies to serve their county.
"Any individual who's got either jump wings or they've been stationed with the 82nd, we welcome them all to our chapter," said Gabriel Kanawite Jr., chaplin of the chapter. "Our main focus of the association as a whole is really to keep the pride and the tradition going."
A chapter that’s been active since WWII, these paratroopers have jumped in many places from American stations to Iraq.
"When you jump, it's like a relief feeling with all the equipment," said Glenda Flowers, treasurer of the chapter. "So when you jump out, its that adrenaline rush of being in the air for a couple of seconds. You're just flying without a care."
These veterans will cross the bridge connecting Caney City and Malakoff. They will walk approximately 2.2 miles to honor veterans and service members who commit suicide daily.
"It's a lot of dedication," Flowers said. "It’s hot, I have a hurt back but I feel as if it's worth the little bit of pain that you go for a couple hours, just to again, bring the awareness that we're here."
For Kanawite, spreading this awareness is personal because he lost his brothers to suicide.
"One older, one younger and both completed suicide a couple of years back at six months apart," Kanawite said.
Through the scorching heat the group completed the journey to raise awareness and to keep Kanawite's brothers’ memories alive.
This group of paratroopers meet frequently each month to engage in fellowship and share experiences. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, know you are important and not alone.
Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255. They are available 24 hours a day.