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March to Raise Awareness for Veterans Health, Education

Veterans and supporters will march from Somers to Kalispell on Sept. 10

Members of the Northwest Montana chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America are organizing a march to raise awareness about veterans’ health and education on Sept. 10.

The march will begin in Somers and end in Kalispell’s Depot Park, where a cookout will be held. Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Tip Clark said the group hopes to raise money for local veterans in need.

“It seems as if our veterans who are dealing with critical health issues are not getting the consoling and treatment they deserve,” Clark said.

Participants will be able to pledge at least $5 or a specific dollar amount for every mile they walk that will be donated to a variety of veteran-related causes, Clark said. Half of the money will go to the Kalispell Vet Center to support reintegration counseling and therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder or sexual trauma. The other half will go toward the Flathead Valley Community College’s Veterans’ Center and scholarships. The center aids veterans who are seeking higher education at the local community college.

Clark said treatment and therapy is critical for veterans who suffered from the horrors of war. Statistics suggest that nearly 20 veterans nationwide commit suicide every single day.

More than 2.7 million American soldiers served in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s. According to recent studies, 300,000 Vietnam veterans, or about one in 10, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Such statistics are especially important in states like Montana, home to more than 100,000 veterans (one-tenth the population of the state), a third of whom served in Vietnam. Flathead County alone is home to more than 9,000 veterans.

Registration and organization for the Sept. 10 march will take place at 8 a.m. that morning in Somers across from the U.S. Post Office. Later that morning, the marchers will head north walking along the Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana path that follows U.S. Highway 93. The 9-mile walk is expected to take about three-and-a-half hours. Clark said organizers will have at least two water stops along the way, and if walkers are injured or grow tired during the march, they will be able to hitch a ride back to their vehicle. Medical professionals will also be onsite.

For more information, call (406) 857-3609 or visit www.northwestmtavva.com.

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