“He cared about everybody else. He was such a giving person.” That’s what Jeff Gebert said about his 37-year old son Christopher Gebert. Gebert and Lisa Bush lost their army veteran son to suicide in August 2017. “His smile and his laugh. I hear it everyday.”
Not long after Christopher’s death the family got support from a group called FW22. “The FW22 is really about the 22 soldiers a day who commit suicide,” said Bush.
Jarred White is the FW 22 organizer. He and his group hold a yearly event to raise awareness and offer support for families. People are invited to show their support by attending the event. White and others carry backpacks that weight 22 kilos, which is about 50 pounds. They carry those packs 22 kilometers to represent the 22 vets White says die by suicide every day. White and a military buddy started FW22 four years ago not long after returning from Afghanistan.
“We were just tired of losing our friends to suicide,” said White. “It’s one thing to go to Afghanistan or Iraq and survive but then come home and kill yourself? The more research we did we found out that 22 veterans every single day kill themselves.” That information comes from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
FW22 began as a hike. Now it’s a walk/run/hike that also includes live bands, food, vendors, a silent auction and tributes for families. Not everyone grabs a 22K backpack and walks, runs or hikes but Gebert says everyone does show their support. “It was amazing how many people reached out to give us support.”
Proceeds go to the local nonprofit Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club, an organization that helps veterans with traumatic brain injuries, stress disorders and other special needs. This year’s event will take place outside the Harley Davidson Dealership on Illinois road in Fort Wayne. It is scheduled for Saturday, September 22, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Registration is required but no veteran will be turned away because of an inability to pay. For registration information and more about the organization you can follow FW22 on Facebook.
“It’s just awesome,” said White. “it’s really gotten big. I can’t wait to see how big it is ten years from now.” “It’s family,” said Gebert. “Once you get involved it’s nothing but family. They’re there for you and that’s how family should be.”