Special to the EagleHerald/Trista Vandehey
Former Marine, Travis Snyder, takes a deep breath while Bonnie Pulkowski, a nurse practitioner at the VA Community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) in Menominee, checks his heart and lung function. Snyder stopped in to the CBOC on his journey to raise awareness of Veteran suicide prevention.
Special to the EagleHerald/Trista Vandehey

Former Marine, Travis Snyder, takes a deep breath while Bonnie Pulkowski, a nurse practitioner at the VA Community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) in Menominee, checks his heart and lung function. Snyder stopped in to the CBOC on his journey to raise awareness of Veteran suicide prevention.

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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. — Suicide Prevention Month is in full swing in the Veterans Administration (VA). All through September the VA is asking for help from the public to raise awareness and encourage everyone to get involved. One concerned veteran has heard the call and is taking on a journey of his own to get the word out.

Travis Snyder is a former Marine reservist who has been personally affected by suicide; to cope with his loss, and to raise awareness, he is putting one foot in front of the other; literally. He started his trek north toward the Mackinaw Bridge Sept. 3. His objective is to walk the entire way around Lake Michigan starting from his home in Manistee, Mich.

Snyder hails from Holland, Mich. In 2012, at 24-years old, he joined the Marine Corps Reserves, he was living in Manistee. He says he had some very supportive friends. “I was going through what I would call a depressive time in my life,” he recalled. “I’m not sure what would have happened if I didn’t have my Marine buddies at that time.”

In 2017, after managing some local restaurants in town, he was deployed to Afghanistan as a basic infantryman. His unit spent seven months in the country. His personal experience with suicide is melded with the journey he is on now. “A fellow Marine that I roomed with took his own life back in April and another officer that I served with in Afghanistan also completed suicide in December,” he said.

He says he realized something. “Suicide is not a light switch that you can turn on and off. That’s why I want to do this and bring awareness so that people can get help,” he explained, “I wanted to show the same support that I got when I was not in a good place.”

Snyder is partnering with Mission 22, a non-profit organization founded in 2013 focused on preventing Veteran suicide. “Raising awareness not only shows them they are not alone,” said Diane McCall, public relations director for the organization. “It also educates people so they know to keep an eye on their veteran, encourage them to get help, and be more understanding of what they are going through before it’s too late.

Mission 22 has an Ambassador Volunteer Program for people to get involved as well. Ambassadors educate the public about veteran issues, help get veterans into Mission 22 treatment programs and create resources in their communities. “With help from amazing supporters like Travis, Mission 22 hopes to end veteran suicide by raising awareness and then providing free treatment programs,” McCall said. For more information, people may go to Mission22.com.

Along his journey Snyder was asked if he was enrolled in VA services. “I was told to enroll as soon as I got out, but didn’t think that I needed the services right away,” he said. He was passing through the patient service area covered by the Iron Mountain VA Medical Center and they were ready to assist him with enrollment.

As Snyder traipsed through Menominee, he stopped at the VA Community-based Outreach Clinic there. He filled out the necessary paperwork and was enrolled into VA health care. The clinic was able to go through some basic medical, physical and mental health care items with him and he was back on the road. “It was nice to meet the people there and get a checkup. I even got my flu shot,” he said.

“I wondered if I would be able to use the VA along the way in case of an emergency,” he said. “I was happy to find out, now that I am enrolled, I could.” He says he plans to use VA services when he returns to his home which is about 400 miles, and three weeks away.

Upon returning home he says he is going to get back on the road. “I’m going to drive around lake Michigan after I get back, to retrace my steps, get some pictures, and take some time to meet with the people that have helped me during my trip,” he said. “I really appreciated everyone’s hospitality.”

If someone knows of a person in a crisis, they may call the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text to 838255, or chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/chat.