People in upstate New York have been intrigued by the man marching through the streets in full military gear while carrying a 40-pound rucksack and a life size skeleton on his back.
The man: army Veteran John Newcomb. His mission: to raise awareness of veteran suicide.
On the night Newcomb found out his wife had suffered a second miscarriage, he also found out that a sergeant he had served with had committed suicide.
“I was helpless and with no control over the loss of my child, so I lashed out at the one thing at the time I felt I could damage and do something about,” he told CBS News. “I compulsively started to create the skeleton dummy and honestly wasn’t really sure what I was doing until it was done.”
On October 5, Newcomb began his journey. Everyday after work and on the weekends he grabs his gear and the symbol of his fallen friend and starts marching.
Since then, he has been stopped numerous times by curious bystanders.
“The reactions from people have been awe inspiring,” Newcomb told the Army Times. “I have been met on the road by people of all walks — some share their own stories with me … some people can’t even bring themselves to find words and simply hand me a donation with tears in their eyes.”
One of those was Stacy Kieper from Troy, NY who felt compelled to speak with Newcomb. She shared her interaction with the veteran on Facebook; the post quickly went viral.
Newcomb told CBS News, “I am passionate about this because every bit of the life I have now, I owe to all of them. I did not go to war, so it is time I start fighting the war they have been unable to since coming home.”
According to a recent study by the Department of Veteran affairs, on average, 20 veterans committed suicide every day in 2014. In 2013, that number was 22.
Newcomb plans to keep marching until October 27—a total of 22 days.
He has posted a number of videos from his journey to facebook.
His main message: “You are never too heavy, I will carry you.”
You can check out his Facebook page for more information, and new videos—there’s still a few days left.