22 and What It Means to You By: Luke Cummings

The number 22 has held significant meaning in the last few years as government officials and civilian activists alike have taken and sprinted with a figure thrown out by a study about veteran suicides in the United States. Like many studies used for policy and propaganda, this one is not without its questionable methods and accuracies. For a more comprehensive look at fact checking this study, read this article from the Washington Post.

I’ll give you a basic understanding. The study looked at how many suicides committed in twenty-one states were by veterans. So they chose less than half of the fifty states, and also left out some of the states with the highest amount of veteran residents. They discovered that veteran suicides in each state made up about 22% of the total suicides, and multiplied this percentage by the total amount of suicides in the entire nation. This gave them the 22 that everyone hears and uses in their slogans.

Is this number too high? Possibly. The more accepted version is 18-22 per day. But considering that they didn’t study the states with higher veteran population, the actual figure could be even higher.

Regardless of the figure and its accuracy, the meaning behind it is truly disturbing. Suicide among veterans who have mental injuries is a massive problem, as it is in first responder groups who face similar working conditions. These people need help.

Concerning to me though, is something I’m sure you’ve seen all over Facebook or some other social media outlet, and that is this pushup challenge. The idea is to do 22 pushups every day for 22 days. You videotape yourself every day and post it to social media, tagging a new friend each day to “challenge” them to do the same. Some of you may have been challenged, and some of you may have even done the challenge. Personally, I have seen an endless amount of these videos, and I have received an equal amount of challenges.

However, I have never, and I will never complete this challenge. The reason why channels my piece from last week, in which I explained why Colin Kaepernick’s particular choice of protest was upsetting to many people. I mentioned in my rambling that his protest accomplished literally nothing, and that maybe he should use his money and status to promote change.

Now, I have no problem with doing something to raise awareness about an issue, but at some point we have to ask – will what I’m doing actually act as a catalyst or at least fuel a catalyst for results? If not, then maybe it’s time to put down the camera, stop doing pushups (your form sucks anyway), get up off the floor, and go out and do something!

You could volunteer at a veteran retreat or a veteran homeless shelter. You could call up some local chapters of the VFW and find out if there is any service you can offer. You could try to make a positive impact in some veteran’s life, either on campus or off, perhaps someone you already know. You could get involved with one of the local events that benefit veteran-assistance organizations; something like a golf outing or a 5K (I know how much everyone loves their 5Ks).

At the very least you could get out your wallet and get online to make a donation to some organizations that are actively helping veterans every day – I will provide a list of some great options*. Make sure you choose one that gives a large amount of their charitable revenue to programs and projects (unlike the WWP, among others).

In the end, we’re all going to do nothing or do something, and I won’t blame you for either. But if you want to actually do something, then DO IT. Don’t pretend that you are by making a meaningless video, and don’t pressure other people on your feed to do the same.


*Some great organizations to consider:

  • Semper Fi Fund
  • Elder Heart/Mission22
  • Gary Sinise Foundation
  • Operation Homefront
  • TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)
  • Hire Heroes USA
  • Lone Survivor Foundation
  • Project Healing Waters
  • Camp Valhalla (founded and operated by a guy I served with)

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