The fall marathon season of 2012 was gearing up and Keri was scrolling through her newsfeed on Facebook, reading of various friends’ upcoming races. She stopped abruptly at Dayna’s post, who shared a picture of a fallen Marine, killed in Afghanistan. Dayna was to run the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon in his memory to show her support to the grieving family – her personal friends. Touched by Dayna’s action, Keri also wanted to honor the memory of a fallen military member.
Shortly thereafter, Keri heard the tragic and shocking news that a military mom in her support group had recently lost her son to post traumatic stress (PTS). He battled the continuing hidden war inside him, though he had returned ‘safely’ from his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Keri asked and received permission to run in his memory at the Baltimore Marathon.
Meanwhile, Keri started reading more about PTS and veteran suicide. The statistic at that time read that on average 18 veterans per day died by suicide. Heartbroken after reading tragic story after tragic story of these losses, Keri and Dayna connected with two more moms who had lost their sons to this terrible battle after returning from war.
Keri, Dayna and their friends, Terri, KC and Melissa, signed up for the Rehoboth Marathon in December 2012. Joining efforts, they made running signs with the pictures of their three heroes: Andy Wilson, Trever Gould and Randy Abrams. The 5 runners proudly pinned these pictures on their backs and ran the marathon to honor these soldiers. Keri and Dayna collected information about PTS and shared with others about the tragedy of veteran suicide.
Soon other runners became interested in the efforts to honor these fallen whose sacrifices were often stigmatized and forgotten. By the time of the Rock 'n Roll DC marathon in March 2013, they were 11 running for 11 veterans to equal 22. Coincidentally, the official statistic had just been raised to 22 veterans dying by suicide per day. 22 Too Many came to be.
Dayna and Keri set up the 22 Too Many Facebook community to share photos and information about those they had been granted permission to run in memory of as well as build a community where other athletes could help increase PTS awareness. Over 200 heroes are honored, and athletes all over the country participate in races or events of different types and lengths in their memory. Runners and any participating are asked to read the story of the hero they honor and send any race medal earned to the grieving family members or loved ones in an effort to show their appreciation and support.
Since our organization began in 2012 the VA report has been updated to show that 20 current and former military members continue to take their own life each day. We keep our name 22 Too Many as a symbol and reminder that there is still work to be done to reduce the number down to zero.