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"22aday" event comes to American Legion Post today

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This scene from Concord when the first crosses were placed by the American Legion Post 172. Brian Bloomfield, Commander, American Legion Post 172, Concord, photos.

Michelle Hendrix said after her brother Brent's death, "she was lost." She relied on her brother for strength and support.

The former Chase High graduate and US Army infantryman in 2003, Brent "Hoss" Hendrix died on April 23, 2020 in Cincinnati after taking his own life. Hendrix lost a leg in the Iraq war in 2006 and for the next 14 years was haunted about the day his Jeep hit an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) while on duty. He would later say he was "blown up" and didn't remember the horrible accident. He would undergo more than 100 surgeries, was hospitalized at Walter Reed and other hospitals.

The Rutherford County infantryman became a sad statistic. Hendrix is among 22 veterans who lose their battle to post traumatic stress on American soil every day. One veteran in the United States dies every 65 minutes.

Because of the alarming statistic, 22aday, a nonprofit organization wasformed in Michigan in 2021 after two years of doing the work as private individuals. Those who began the organization said they started the work because "we all have a personal connecter to a friend who committed suicide."

Hendrix grew up in Rutherford County and graduated in 2003 from Chase. Hejoined the US Army as an infantryman in 2003. After his severe injury in Iraq, he spent three years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. He was medically retired from the US Army on the 3rd anniversary of his Alive Day. His heroic efforts awarded him the Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

He moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend college and to move on with life. At the Medical Center at the University of Cincinnati, he would continue treatments that meant many more surgeries. Apparently the burdens were too much to bear for the Rutherford County Purple Heart Medal recipient. He couldn't handle life.

Brent's death almost four years ago forever changed his family.

The family and other Rutherford and regional families who have been through the same thing, will have an opportunity to remember and honor them during the 22aday event in Green Hill.

Beginning Thursday (Jan. 4) through the first days of February, 22 white crosses will be placed daily in the front yard of the American Legion Post 74 at 2502 US 64/74 in Green Hill. The crosses are placed to pay tribute to the veterans who die by suicide each day. The crosses will be lit at night and by the end month, there will be 660 crosses placed in Green Hill.

Family members of veterans who died by suicide and the general public are invited to come to Green Hill anytime between January 5 and February 4 to remember their loved ones and observe the display of crosses. Families and friends may submit information about their veteran to be placed on a cross.

During the coming days, information will be available on site for resources the community can use to support Rutherford County veterans and those close by.

Jon Luker of Howell, Michigan, and secretary of 22aday will be in Green Hill on January 4 (today) to begin the process of the memorial. The first crosses will be placed on Friday, January 5.

The 22aday organization that began in Michigan, reaches out to organizations across the country that might be interested in hosting an event.

Marc Kunes is the Commander of the Legion Post 74 in Green Hill. After learning about the veteran suicide awareness program, the local post decided to host an event.

"This is only the second time this has been held in North Carolina," Kunes said.

The American Legion Post 172 in Concord hosted the program last year.

"We hope this spreads to as many places as possible in order to bring awareness to what military personnel often face," he said.

The American Legion Post members, the Marine Corps League, the Disabled American Veterans and others will be among volunteers to help place the crosses in the yard each day. Anyone interested is invited to participate.

"I have experienced this (veteran suicide)," Kunes said. As a member of the Rutherford County Honor Guard he has met families who have lost a beloved veteran to suicide.

"If people want to volunteer that will be good" Kunes said.

After the 660 crosses have been placed over the month, they will remain for a few more days as people pass by to reflect on the memorials.

Events such as the one beginning today in Green Hill are organized by Ambassadors and are unique in every way - from small groups of people at local malls, hundreds of people uniting together at parks, schools, and even at parades in hometowns to a small awareness movement at City, County or State facilities (permission required) to help the movement grow and spread the awareness in the communities, the website reads.

Luker also said anyone unable to get to Green Hill by Feb. 10 can email their veteran's information to: info@22aday.org and volunteers will add it to the cross and place the information on the group's webpage.

Pamphlets and other items to educate the community of the reality of military suicide will be available.

Brent Hendrix is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and during the recent Wreaths Across America event, a friend placed a wreath at his grave. During the 22aday memorial, Michelle plans to come to Green Hill and add her brother's name to a cross. Others are invited to do the same.

Note: If you want to share a 22aday story, contact Jean Gordon: gordonjean211@gmail.com

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