Civilians invited to join vets in 'ruck' march for PTSD awareness

Ed Glimme wants you to take a hike. Toting a backpack up hills and down dales — or without a pack and just walking the flatlands through the La Crosse Marsh and city streets, whichever fits your stamina.

Glimme, 42, is coordinating Wisconsin Rucking the Bluff, a March 7 trek through La Crosse in which civilians are asked to join with veterans to raise awareness of the post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many troops and veterans.

A ruck, or rucksack, is the backpack troops carry on marches during field training and when deployed — often including 85 pounds of gear, food and other provisions. Those who participate in the increasingly popular venture outside of the military are called ruckers.

“The goal is to help the community become actively aware that, for some vets, PTSD is a daily struggle,” said Glimme, who owns Ethereal Gateless Barrier, a La Crosse school that teaches meditation, spirituality, Qi Gong, yoga and martial arts.

“Burdened with the stigma associated with mental health issues and the military ‘shame’ surrounding post-traumatic stress, they instead turn to suicide as their only option to relieve suffering,” he said.

“Every day, 22 veterans and one active duty soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder take their own lives,” Glimme said.

Those statistics, the most recent available, are from a 2012 study the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department conducted of veteran suicides from 2009 to 2011. Although suicides among older veterans declined slightly, the rate of suicides among male veterans under 30 increased 44 percent, and the rate among female veterans rose 11 percent, according to the VA report.

Glimme is not a veteran, but he picked up the idea from a friend in Milwaukee involved in a similar event.

“It’s an opportunity for vets and their supporters and loved ones to get together,” he said.

“It’s interesting in the warrior tradition that most people identify PTSD as just with veterans, but it can affect people who have run into troubled times in their lives,” he said.

Marchers will step off at the head trail of Hixon Forest in La Crosse at 10 a.m. March 7. The 8.6 mile course will include the Bicentennial Trail, circling back to the La Crosse River Marsh, following the marsh path to Riverside Park, through downtown to West Avenue, then back on Market Street to the Roy L. Vingers American Legion Post 52 at 711 Sixth St. S. for the Legion’s monthly steak fry at 5 p.m.

“The course we set up has some difficult parts along the bluff that get your heart pumping, but the marsh is flat,” he said.

“You don’t have to ruck the whole thing,” he said. “If you see us going through the streets and you want to support veterans, just fall in.”

Rucksack guidelines are 25 pounds or more for women and 35-plus pounds for men. Glimme advises that your ruck should include supplies you might need, such as food and water, for the distance you plan to march, as well as clothing to suit the weather conditions.

The weight is intended not only to represent the physical loads troops carry during deployment but also to symbolize the hidden burden of PTSD, Glimme said.

However, participants don’t need to burden themselves with a backpack. “If all you have is a water bottle, we’re not going to gig you,” he said.

More than 30 ruckers, including active military and veterans, from across the state have signed up to participate, Glimme said, and he would like to at least match that number locally.

“If I could get 30, 40 or 60 from here, that would be great,” he said.

A veterans group plans to film the march to raise awareness of rucking statewide, Glimme said.

“It’s kind of like the motorcyclists who ride to all events, these guys ruck whenever possible,” he said.

Ruckers and nonparticipants alike are encouraged to mix with veterans at the steak fry, Glimme said.

Glimme is not soliciting donations at this time, explaining, “This ruck is to raise the awareness for vets and PTSD. Spending time with a vet goes much further than the dollar. I’d rather have people buy a beer at the post than throw money at an organization — and the vet would appreciate it, too.”


©2015 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)

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