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Army Veteran Fasts 22 Days To Raise Awareness For Veteran Suicide

DRAPER, Utah — The 9/11 attacks were a call to arms for many Utahns eager to serve. Some of those warriors, who did their duty, now struggle with invisible wounds, like PTSD and thoughts of suicide. That’s why one Utah combat veteran is doing what he can to share hope for fellow veterans.

“It was an incredible experience,” said U.S. Army combat veteran, Kenny King.

King broke a 22-day fast Friday morning at the Vet Cave in Draper, a safe space for Utah veterans. He was inspired by fellow veteran Leonardo Oliveira, who previously fasted 22 days.

“I went 22 full days of no eating, just water,” said King as he sipped on bone broth.

The number 22 launched a movement to raise awareness for veteran suicide. In years past, that was how many veterans committed suicide on an average day, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. They have subsequently updated that number to 17, but King said a lot of veteran suicides are not tracked.

“One would be too many,” he said. “But that number is kind of a well-known number among the community of people who are trying to prevent those suicides.”

After he was medically retired from the army, King battled thoughts of suicide. He knows isolation can be the veteran’s worst enemy back at home.

“We feel already so isolated because the experiences that we’ve had don’t seem to resonate with those that haven’t had them,” he said.

His PTSD following combat led him to disconnect even more.

“I just felt like I couldn’t connect with myself anymore, and therefore, with others,” he King.

King said he was afraid to talk about suicide because he didn’t want to frighten everybody in his life. He now knows it’s critical to reach out to other war veterans to start talking about those thoughts as soon as they emerge.

“I had so many people that loved me,” he said. “I had detached from them, I had pushed them away, but I knew they loved me.”

King chose to keep breathing and keep living. He reached out to other veterans for help.

He recently found healing through the Heroes Haven, a Utah-based program aimed at helping veterans work through their trauma.

The VA also has many resources.

“The joy for living has been even brighter,” King said. “I’ve just felt so much clarity throughout this process.”

He said the fast gave him unexpected mental clarity and physical rejuvenation.

“Coming back to my true self,” the veteran said. “Really being in a flow state. I felt very centered; a lot of clarity.”

He also shared a message for other veterans who may be thinking about taking their own lives.

“It will get better. Just staying alive is enough, and if you can, try and reach out to another veteran,” he said.

King and many other Utah veterans are unwilling to leave any soldier behind as they battle mental health struggles here on the homefront.

“We will be with there for you (in) any way we can because people were there for us,” he said.

For more information and resources visit BeThereForVeterans.com.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
  • University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300

Online resources

In an emergency

  • Call the police
  • Go to the emergency room
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