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Rucksack march raises funds to help veterans and first responders

With Remembrance Day less than a week away, a charity walk Sunday honoured the physical and mental aspects of what soldiers and first responders go through in the line of duty.

The fifth annual 22-kilometre Rucksack March for Remembrance at Rundle Park helps raise awareness and funds for Wounded Warriors Canada — a non-profit mental health provider for first responders, veterans and their families.

An organizer chose that distance and the weight each participant held in their backpack after learning of a 2015 study stating 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide daily.

"The mental struggle that people are going through, we kinda wanted to make that 22 kilos become like a metaphor, like a physical weight instead of a mental weight that you are carrying," said Ian Hall.

Hall, a current Edmonton firefighter who previously served in the Canadian Armed Forces, said the long walk allows for reflection and forces participants to talk, which is where the starting point for positive mental health starts.

"Your brain will start saying things like, do you need to keep going, do you need to keep walking," Hall added. "That voice, that we all have in the back of our heads, that we don't need to do this, we don't need to keep going, we don't need to continue the struggle."

"If we can prevent people from having occupation stress and post-traumatic stress issues, then obviously, we can decrease the suicides."

"Vets, military members, first responders have chosen to do a job, and they do a job for society," Hall said.

"This is another way to reflect on the unseen deaths from the work they do."

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