Meet The Team
Keri Jacobs Co-Founder
Keri grew up in the 60’s where news of the war in Vietnam weighed heavily on our nation. Her grandma cared for and helped raise a young man that later was sent to Vietnam. He was like part of the family; Keri read his letters sent home and prayed for the troops nightly.
As she grew older and watched the first Gulf War unfold on CNN, she knew she wanted to do ‘something’ to support the troops. Eventually she teamed up with a Vietnam veteran to collect and wrap gifts annually at their church to deliver to hospitalized vets. She also volunteered at a getaway for wounded warriors. At this getaway, the key speaker shared of her 30+ years of experience counseling military members with the hidden wounds of war, while stating, “we can’t let those with PTSD fall through the cracks.” Those words made an impact on Keri.
Keri’s son enlisted with the USAF after graduating high school and deployed to Afghanistan right before his 20th birthday. Keri joined an online group for parents of deployed service members. There she met her friend, Susan, a military mom who was anxious about her son, diagnosed with PTS, upon returning from Iraq. Unfortunately, he lost this inner battle and was gone. Keri ran her next marathon in his memory - SGT Andrew Wilson.
As Keri read more of combat trauma and the alarming suicide rates for our military – approximately 22 per day - she was maddened that the stigma of suicide far outweighed the fact that many served and sacrificed, but died in the war zone that never left them once they returned home. While watching memorial videos online, Keri ran across a comment from the father of SGT Chip Wicks, USMC, who took his life after serving in the early days of the Iraq war. “No one cares about these dead heroes who also served. They are forgotten, swept aside.” As Keri read these words of Chip’s father, Boyd, she resolved to always run in memory of these forgotten heroes and do what she could to honor their sacrifice.
Keri and Dayna, close running friends, joined efforts with several others and ran the Rehoboth Beach Marathon for 3 soldiers lost to suicide. By the spring of 2013, they had another marathon coming up, where 11 runners carried 11 soldiers and Marines. Citing the 11 runners + 11 fallen = 22, the name “22 Too Many” was born. The suicide rate of 22 per day had just been officially released by the VA.
Running in memory of the “22 Too Many” spread from a local effort to a nationwide endeavor that encompassed not only running, but walking, ruck marches, cycling, motorcycle rallies and educational events. In all of these, the ’22 Too Many’ pictures and stories are shared.
Keri felt a burden for the grieving family members and started taking classes with the Center for Loss and Life Transitions, taught by Dr. Alan Wolfelt. She completed her Certification in Grief Studies November 2017.
Keri has run 25 marathons, three 50k’s and many half marathons. Inspired by the likes of Andy and Chip, she has carried a picture of 22 Too Many heroes on her back in every race since October 2012, and will continue.
Keri also enjoys playing piano and guitar and writing inspirational music. In addition to 22 Too Many, she manages the Facebook pages 22 Pray and Alternate Melody.
Dayna Rashidian Co-Founder
Dayna is a California native who now calls Maryland home. She is a proud Navy veteran who left the military to raise her son as a single mother with the intention to one day go back in as a reservist. Soon after leaving and facing the reality of raising a child, she became worried about having to leave her son, so she sought other ways to support the military. She remained working with the Department of the Navy as a civilian for 7 years before transferring to the Department of the Treasury where she is currently working.
Dayna's heart grew heavy after seeing all the deaths from the current war, especially when the effect of the war hit close to home. A dear friend lost her future son-in-law in Afghanistan. She wanted to show her support for both her friend's family and his, so she ran the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon in his memory. There was so much love and support along the course for this fallen hero that she wanted to continue to share the stories of the fallen through her running. Coming from a large military family and seeing the effects of PTS on several family members, spreading awareness of PTS and sharing these heroes’ stories seemed like the natural choice, which led her to work on 22 Too Many with Keri.
Dayna earned her BS in Health Care Management from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and her Masters Degree from the University of Maryland in Public Health Practice and Policy.
Dayna is an avid runner who has completed over 70 races including 17 marathons, 1 ultra marathon, and 1 sprint triathlon. She is a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) certified running coach who volunteers with Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC) in Maryland as a coach with the Experienced Marathon Program.
Malissa Polen Event Coordinator
Malissa is originally from Ohio, but now resides in southwest Texas. She is married to a USAF retiree. Being a military spouse, she had one of the hardest jobs in the military. Holding a family together through deployments, temporary duties and mentoring new military spouses through the changes they were enduring. Malissa has two sons, from a previous marriage, and acquired a daughter and another son upon marrying her current husband. Her life still remains embedded in the military, since her husband is now a DoD civilian.
Upon graduating high school in 2007, Malissa’s youngest son, Ryan, joined the Marines. He served his country for four years, seeing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once he separated from the Marines, he began college, pursuing a degree in pediatric dentistry. From the time he returned home, it was evident he brought some demons back from his deployments. Ryan experienced night terrors, which escalated to the point he was afraid to go to sleep. Ryan had PTS. Malissa, other family members, and friends tried to convince him to seek help, but he refused due to the false stigma seeking help portrays.
Ryan continued with school and met the love of his life. They married in December 2014. The pressures of a new marriage, and all that it entails, accompanied by the PTS became too much for him. During a severe night terror, he accidently hurt his wife. Ryan became very distraught. The following day, Ryan became one of the 22. The devastation Malissa felt became her catalyst to help bring awareness to PTS so others may not have to suffer the loss and pain her and her family has had to endure. She reached out to 22 Too Many to seek assistance for Ryan’s widow and an instant bond was formed between Malissa and the organization.
In September 2016, Malissa was asked to join 22 Too Many as the Event Coordinator. Recently Malissa and her husband purchased a small farm southwest of San Antonio. She stays busy raising her ten year old granddaughter, taking care of their five horses and the time she dedicates to 22 Too Many. She is a member of Cowboy Fellowship church where she volunteers as a Sunday School leader and assists with youth activities. Malissa’s vision for the future is to build a cabin on their farm to provide a cost free respite for anyone with PTS or families who have suffered a loss.
Ed McClelland Chaplin
Ed started Operation Creekside in 2009 as a faith based non profit serving our troops deployed. They have packed, prayed for and shipped over 10,000 care packages to date. He and his team will tell you it's not about the quantity, it's about that one care package arriving to a deployed US service member at the right time.
In 2014, Ed received word that one of the US Army Chaplains that they had supported on a 2011 deployment had taken his own life, and then eleven months later so did his assistant. They had just finished up their first Task Force Hope veteran’s camp when the news about the assistant was received. Ed was able to attend the funeral of this young hero and provide support to the loved ones.
Ed has known 22 Too Many co-founder Keri Jacobs for 5 years and knew a little about the organization. Hearing of the loss of two heroes that they had supported really hit the team hard and Operation Creekside’s mission began to change. They still consistently send the care packages to deployed US troops and host camps for returning veterans that suffer from PTS, TBI and other issues, but the connection to 22 Too Many took them to a new mission in the fall of 2016.
On his 4th trip to Maryland serving at a warrior getaway with Joni and Friends, Ed decided to drive across the US and back. He told Keri he would meet some 22 Too Many families along the way if they wanted to meet. Ed was able to meet 13 families on that first trip. These meetings are not easy, but Ed feels that these families need the opportunity to talk with someone, and God has given him the ability to listen intently and sit or stand with them as long as they want.
In early 2017, Ed made a northwest trip and met families in northern California and Oregon. Later that year he was able to complete a second cross country trek, again, meeting more families; some for a 2nd time. These families are hurting. They need to know America cares and that their loved ones are not forgotten. Ed has visited many gravesites, sometimes with others and sometime alone. Ed went to one last year that had not had any visitors since the soldier was buried.
Ed has met thirty 22 Too Many families. His list contains about 240 that he plans to visit to let them know that he cares and is there for them. Ed is the 22 Too Many Chaplain who strongly believes in the 22 Too Many mission. He prays that we end soldier suicide and is able to be there for the hurting families along the way.
Brenda Gray Outreach Coordinator
Brenda is a retired LPN and mother to three sons, Brandon and twins Joshua and Jacob. Her son Sgt Jacob Gray is one of the 22 Too Many heroes who passed away at 28 1/2 years old. She was born and raised in NE Ohio and has lived in Nashville, TN and Georgetown, LA. She moved back to Ohio in 1989 and has lived there since.
Her hobbies are cross-stitching, reading and spending time with her family. She is also Grandma to four beautiful grandchildren, Kaden and Madelynn (Jacob’s children) and Cooper and Carson (Joshua’s children). Due to multiple retina reattachment surgeries she wears an eye patch on her right eye due to constant double vision. In spite of this, she is doing her part so no other family has to suffer the loss of suicide. Spread Awareness, Educate & Save Lives is her motto!