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Local business partners with non-profit group to address veteran suicide

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 11 a.m. — As Memorial Day approaches and we remember the military men and women who laid down their lives for our safety and freedom, there’s a charity that’s quietly at work to help returning veterans who find themselves struggling to adjust with the return to civilian life.

Those struggles can include depression, post traumatic stress disorder, isolation, anxiety and even thoughts of suicide.

For Navy veteran Carter Davis, these struggles were very real in 2013 as he faced the transition from the military and back to civilian life.

In a telephone interview Monday, Davis said he battled depression and anxiety, and contemplated suicide. He lost six of his friends to suicide the first year after he left the Navy, he said.

Davis had served as a medic with the friends he lost to suicide, and said he was bothered that none of the six reached out to him before they took their lives. However he soon learned why they did not.

“When I was in my own dark moment, I realized how dark it was,” he said. “You don’t reach out. You have accepted that life isn’t going to get better and you accept your fate.”

Davis said he reached out to the VA for help but found little available at the time. He eventually reached out to two friends — friends who took him to a gym, which became a transformative moment in his life.

CARTER DAVIS

“I realized after I went to the gym, I felt better,” Davis said. “I was able to reconcile in my mind some of the anxiety I had. It provided an outlet for me that was positive.”

With going to the gym as part of his normal routine, he saw his mental health symptoms subside. Later, in an effort to share the impact going to the gym had on his life, he started a hashtag movement, #LifeForThe22, a reference to the average number of veterans who take their lives each day.

“I wanted to get the word out there to other vets that if they workout together and are part of a community in the gym, that we could potentially forge a new transitional opportunity for veterans across the country,” he said.

Carter’s hashtag movement quickly evolved into Lift for the 22, a non-profit organization Davis founded to create a network that can connect veterans and also promote the benefit of community with the obvious mental and physical health benefits of working out.

Lift for the 22 partners with workout facilities to provide veterans with gym memberships. Its partnership with Workout Anytime began in 2015 and has grown as Workout Anytime has grown.

“I want to provide veterans across the country with the same camaraderie we experienced in the military,” Davis said. “Being able to connect with other local vets who have shared experiences similar to your own is very healing.”

Workout Anytime’s Bardstown location is part of the Lift for the 22 veteran outreach, and currently fundraising to providing free gym memberships to veterans who can benefit from the transitional support as well as the physical and mental health benefits membership can offer.

For Workout Anytime General Manager Maggie Davis, supporting veterans in transition is an issue that hits close to home.

Davis grew up in a military family, and her husband is a recent veteran who served in Iraq.

“I grew up as what they call a military brat, my father was in the Air Force,” she said.

Having seen her husband struggle with service-connected transition issues, David said that
working with an organization that helps veterans improve their lives was something she wanted to pursue.

Walking into a gym can be intimidating, she acknowledged.

“Starting a fitness journey can be difficult,” she said. “We understand that everyone has different starting points, but we’re here to help you.”

Workout Anytime is currently raising money to help fund more memberships for the Lift for the 22 program, she said.

“The majority of what we raise is put back in our facility to help future veterans who enter the program,” she said.

Veterans interested in a free Workout Anytime membership should apply through Lift For The 22 by visiting their website, www.liftforthe22.org, or for more information, call or stop by Workout Anytime Bardstown, 100 W John Rowan Blvd or call (502) 373-7440.

 

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