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U.S. Army Veteran To Ride Wheelchair 422 Miles In Support Of Suicide Awareness
Updated May 17, 2017 2:12 PM
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(North Tonawanda, N.Y.) - U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Geartz is able to walk very short distances, but struggles daily with pain and has dealt with thoughts of suicide.

Now, in support of the approximately 22 veterans whose lives end to suicide each day, Geartz will ride his wheelchair 422 miles (22 miles a day) as part of his 422For22 fundraising campaign to raise awareness of the issue. Geartz is riding in honor of two veteran support organizations: SongwritingWith:Soldiers, which he credits for helping to save his own life, and Team Red, White & Blue. Geartz will begin Saturday, May 27 at the American Legion Post #31 in Angola, Ind.,, and plans to complete the journey in 35 days at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in Niagara Falls, N.Y. on Saturday, July 1.

Geartz, who received honorable discharge after serving in the U.S. Army as a military police officer from 1999-2004, was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in September 2003. Geartz sustained injuries including blood clots, spinal stenosis, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and partial paralysis in both legs.

"Everything was just so overwhelming," said Geartz, who attempted to end his own life in 2014. "It came to a point when I had to admit that I wasn't able to care for myself or my son. That was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. I had been through countless therapies, programs and other treatments. Nothing seemed to help."

In October 2015, Geartz attended a retreat through SongwritingWith:Soldiers, a program that pairs award-winning songwriters with veterans and service members in retreat settings to craft songs about military experience and returning home. Working with singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier, Geartz co-wrote "Still On the Ride," and the pair performed the song at the Grand Ole Opry's 90th anniversary celebration in 2016.

"Being able to tell my story through song helped me in ways that traditional programs just couldn't do," said Geartz.

At a SW:S retreat one year later, when Geartz attended as Peer Support (along with his wife, also an Army veteran, as a participant), he learned of Team Red, White & Blue and their mission to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Funds raised through the 422For22 campaign will benefit both SongwritingWith:Soldiers and Team Red, White & Blue, both of which Geartz hopes will continue to positively impact the lives of veterans for years to come.

For more information on the event, visit Facebook.com/422FOR22. Donations can be made directly to SongwritingWith:Soldiers (www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org) or Team Red, White & Blue (www.teamrwb.org) on behalf of 422For22.



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