COLUMBIA - The Buddy Check 22 Program looks to promote awareness of the issue of suicide facing military personnel.
According to a 2013 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide each day. In raising awareness of this issue, the Buddy Check 22 program takes place the 22nd of each month.
The program's founder, Zach Ziegel, said he created it after a tragedy happened involving one of his close friends.
"A buddy of mine from one of our deployments had come home and ended up committing suicide after we got home. He was one of the many that I've heard about," Ziegel said.
"I thought we could do something that wouldn't cost anybody money, but would still give veterans the help that they need. The program would remind veterans that they are still cared about."
The program's Facebook page has almost 14,000 likes, with a reminder on the 22nd of each month to call a veteran. Ziegel said some followers of the program are also veterans themselves, and a lot of them are looking to help and reconnect with people with whom they served.
One veteran, Ken Allison, said in facing difficult issues such as depression or PTSD, it is important for veterans who served with one another to reconnect.
"It gets you out of the depression era if that's what the case is. It gets your mental faculties back in order the way they should be," Allison said.
"There's many times, because of PTSD, that other veterans can help out, that were there at the same time. They know what you went through and you can talk with them about it."
While it is very helpful for veterans to connect one another, Dr. Matthew Miller, the Director of the Suicide Prevention Program for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said you don't have to be a veteran to help out.
"We all have a role to play, and that role might be peer to peer. But you know if you’re not a peer, if you’re not a veteran, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a role," Miller said.
"Everyone has a role to play within this. You don’t have to be a peer or psychologist."
Ziegel said while he does not know the exact number of veterans the program has helped, the most important aspect is that at least one life is changed.
With a strong and growing group of participants, the program continues today.