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Operation 23 to Zero Braves Bitter Temps

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - Saturday's cold didn't stop some determined veterans and active duty members from making a statement in Iowa City.

Members of Operation 23 to Zero walked 22 miles. It's to raise awareness for the 22 veterans and the one active duty member who, they say, commit suicide everyday.

For Iowa National Guard member Samantha Welch, walking in the Frozen Hawkeye Ruck comes after tragedy almost hit her family.

She says her brother talked about suicide often.

"At times, he thought about taking his life and that's mainly my motivation for this," she said.

He was done battling a war overseas, but he faced his own fight here at home with PTSD and depression.

"You never really leave when you're over there," she said. "It's constantly in your mind."

Welch says he didn't end up taking his life, but sadly, the group knows the number who do is far too large.

The flags they held high and names plastered on their rucksacks honor those who did lose their battles.

"Everybody's wired differently," organizer David Peters said. "Some people need service dogs. Some people need counseling."

"Everybody knows it's happening, but nobody wants to address it," Kirk Mansfield, a participant, said. Mansfield served in the Navy.

Some walk not only to address the issue, but because they've also been down that tough road before.

"You never realize that 22 miles can hurt so bad, but you don't feel it until after you're done because you're just overwhelmed with the amount of participation," Welch said.

The group plans on having a similar event in Des Moines this spring.

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