Two Veterans Travel Mississippi River to Help Stop Soldier Suicide
Three months, one canoe and over 2,000 miles: these numbers add up to a mission to raise awareness of a growing issue in the United States, soldier suicide.
Two veterans from Itasca County are taking this journey down the Mississppi River to raise money for the group “Stop Soldier Suicide.” Dave Hardy and Frank Lachinski started the journey to the Gulf of Mexico on June 3 at the Headwaters in Itasca State Park. With Lachinski in the canoe and Hardy in a truck decorated in images of his deceased son, this trip will take an estimated three months.
“There’s over 20 vets today that are dying from suicide. Not just active duty, retired veterans,” shared Hardy. “There’s no real age limit as far as who it affects and how it affects.”
“About a year ago I said, ‘Well, I got to do something. What can I do?'” said Lachinski. “…I thought, ‘Well, why don’t we paddle a canoe down to the Gulf of Mexico to bring awareness to stop soldier suicide?'”
“We’ve all known somebody who’s been a victim of soldier suicide,” said Lachinski’s son Jeremy, who is also joining his father on the first leg of this trip. “The awareness needs to be there, along with the awareness of mental health issues that go along with military personnel.”
While the mission is to bring awareness of mental health in veterans and the “Stop Soldier Suicide” foundation, there are also personal reasons for the trip, like for Hardy, whose son died of suicide last year.
His son was living in St. Cloud and experiencing difficulties when he took his life in April of 2022. Hardy then went to see his son after he was informed of the suicide.
“I wasn’t going anywhere until I saw my son’s body because I’m in disbelief,” said Hardy. “The police finally allowed me to go up and see my son so I went up there in one breath. It’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s my boy.’ But in another breath it’s like, ‘No, that’s not my son.”
If you are struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, call the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.