MADISON, Wis. - The number of veterans who die by suicide and experience post-traumatic stress disorder is a nationwide issue.
In an effort to help reduce the issues and stressors that lead to depression and veteran suicides, on Friday, June 21, Seven Hills Skydiving and and 4th HOOAH are hosting the fifth annual Freedom Freefall event.
"We use skydiving as a way for veterans to cope with PTSD because the PTSD suicide rate amongst veterans is 20 a day," said Andy VanHandel, who is an organizer of Freedom Freefall.
VanHandel said in the previous years, he has seen the positive effects skydiving has on veterans who may be experiencing mental health issues.
"I think a lot of these veterans, they need that adrenaline rush. They come home from combat and a lot of them are lost," he said.
VanHandel said some veterans have told him that their jump from the plane saved their life.
"They're telling me it changed their life and now they're back on the right track in life. It's just been an incredible ride and we are hoping to see the event grow," he said.
In 2015, the first Freedom Freefall event took place. Nine vets from six different wars took this leap of faith. Since then, the number of veterans who jump has grown every year.
This year, they're taking 40 vets up in the sky.
"We've put up over 100 veterans in the five years," VanHandel said. "The smiles on these guys' faces when they come down after that jump, and the adrenaline that they're feeling, they're just riding an all-time high."
VanHandel said it isn't always necessarily the jump from the plane that changes them.
"A lot of these guys, they need the comaraderie," he said. "They may not necessarily make the skydive, but they come out to the event just to hang with their buddies and hang with the other veterans that are there."
If you know a veteran who would like to do this or if you would like to nominate a veteran, you can submit their name here. Please make sure to ask the person you are nominating if they want to do this before submitting their information.
Freedom Freefall organizers are looking for nominations of veterans to skydive for free! The event is held in hopes to help reduce the stressors that lead to PTSD and veteran suicide. Nominate someone here: https://t.co/5yBxcAWUAB#News3Now pic.twitter.com/phlQWyuIbb— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) April 4, 2019
Not all who apply to jump will be chosen. Only 40 veterans will be permitted to jump. The selected veterans will be chosen May 1. The skydive plus video of their experience will be completely free. Friends and family of the 40 veterans who jump are invited to the event
If you are interested in sponsoring this event, please contact 4th Hooah Inc at 4thHooah@gmail.com.
You can also follow the event on their Facebook page.
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