The Shepherd’s Men, a 10-member team of active duty, medically retired and honorably discharged servicemen and civilians dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the Atlanta-based Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative, today kick off their seventh annual run in Arlington, Va. at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial. Today and the next six days will be filled with running, rucking and swimming in Baltimore, Maryland; Arlington and Lynchburg, Virginia; Mt. Juliet and Chattanooga, Tennessee; Athens and finally Atlanta.

The Shepherd’s Men Run is a seven-city physical challenge during which each member of the Shepherd’s Men team will run, ruck and swim every day, totaling over 1,000 miles collectively, while wearing 22-pound flak vests with armor plates to honor the lives of the 22 veterans who commit suicide in the United States each day.

Its press release says the gear simulates what U.S. military troops wear during battle and represents the physical, mental and emotional burden veterans cope with while readjusting to civilian life. During the Mt. Juliet movement, the team will carry 83 pounds in a rucksack, and march 15.3 miles, to honor the life of country music legend and longtime Shepherd’s Men supporter Charlie Daniels.

“We run for our brothers and sisters who lost their lives, for our brothers and sisters who are still fighting long after leaving the battlefield and for our brothers and sisters who have not yet returned home,” says Travis Ellis, Shepherd’s Men co-founder.

“We will not rest until the number of lives lost every day to suicide goes from 22 to 0. Our veterans deserve to live meaningful, gratifying lives with their families after their courageous service to our country.”

The annual run is the Shepherd’s Men’s primary fundraising effort for the SHARE Military Initiative at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta. SHARE is a comprehensive rehabilitation program that focuses on assessment and treatment for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The team’s 2021 goal is to raise $1.2 million by hosting fundraisers during their journey and, in turn, fully fund one year’s operating budget for SHARE.

“It is our desire to shine light on the condition of those struggling in our veteran community— many of whom suffer in silence, isolating themselves from family, friends and the community,” Ellis says.

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