Winter Garden group's walk to raise awareness about veteran suicides to have fresh meaning

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — Veterans and volunteers inside the American Legion Post 63 in Winter Garden were getting ready Thursday for a weekend walk aimed at raising awareness about the epidemic of veteran suicides.

The walk was postponed in September because of Hurricane Irma and many will take to the road Saturday with heavy hearts, wondering if one of their own would be participating had the event gone on as originally planned.

Just days ago, a Winter Garden veteran took his own life and many of the awareness walk's organizers knew him personally.

"He was a member of this local community, and more than likely would have been at this event," Kurt Gies said. "And he would have seen what we're doing and the awareness that we're trying to bring.

"I don't know if it would have stopped him, but it may have."

It is estimated that 22 veterans take their own lives every day nationwide. Organizers of Saturday's event want the public to be more aware and recognize the signs when a person might be contemplating suicide.

"There's not a lot that you can do unless you know them, you know, and you see that," Marine Corps veteran Ashley Moir said. "We're just trying to make sure people know what to look for."