I first heard about 22 Until None from a friend who told me about it. He said I should head to an event in Warrenton, Virginia on January 31st. Checking up on it, I discovered it was being held by a Marine named Derek Cirilo, and he was doing a benefit ruck march in order to assist veterans in need. This was interesting. With the assistance of a group of hardcore military supporters, 22 Until None began to get the word out: veterans need help. These guys meant business and Cirilo was there to do his best to serve the veteran community. A sister event was being held in Los Angeles on the same day.
The goal for attendees was to ruck as far as they could; 22 miles would be ideal; essentially 6 circuits through the town of Warrenton. Attendees could do as many laps as they wanted to. Everyone did at least 1 lap. With the support of the local gun store called Warrenton Arms to hold the event, and a motivated group of supporters called Team Ronin, Cirilo’s ruck march was taking shape. The day for walking was NOT ideal. The wind was strong, and there was a deep chill, yet people were walking and rucking.
Some of the attendees carried a remarkable amount of weight. I got the opportunity to speak to many of them. It was pretty amazing. People there were saying, “I showed up to give my support and I’m going to walk.” Could they have stayed home on the sofa and watched sports? Sure, that’s a good relaxing thing to do from time to time but the issue of veteran suicide is serious business and it takes a focused guy like Cirilo to make a difference.
I met Derek at the store and we shook hands. I could tell he was there for good reasons. Stolen Valor type fake veterans stay at home to ‘man’ their phones in order to collect money from well-meaning ‘suckers’. But Cirilo was in Virginia to ruck in the cold. I ambled alongside him and we chatted as he explained his mission and his long-term goal. He wished he could do more and was grateful to those who turned out to ruck and raise money. We tromped through the streets of Warrenton as he talked about going into the Marine Corps, losing some friends, and hearing about displaced veterans and I could tell he sincerely wanted to help.
The issues that plagues a lot of veterans isn’t just their Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) issues, or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), but the fact that the government agency created to assist them has been run by some people who don’t seem to care. Veterans Affairs internal investigations had identified 35 veterans who had died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VHA system. Who knows if this has been the same problem in other states. Response times have been certainly long and that’s only one of the issues hurting veterans; each problem vets face is unique to them.
Tired of the nonsense, Cirilo’s team formed up, all in order to bring attention to a very serious issue the public likely wasn’t aware of. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide daily. Yes, that’s a correct number; nearly 8000 a year.
22 Until None’s goal is to provide info to the public on how they can help veterans and also to provide needed resources to veterans and their families. One of the major issues for non-profits is that some spend more money on fundraising and selling their clothing, bracelets and baseball caps then donating money to veterans. One non-profit group only donated 1 million dollars of the nearly 50+ million it received from duped citizens intent on making a visible difference. These groups need to be stopped and Cirilo thinks so too. He spent 8 years, from 2004-2012 as a Marine Infantryman, and served in two major efforts. He knows sacrifice. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Warfighters tend to make tight buddies in the military, and Marines notorious for some pretty hardcore fighting are also known by their Esprit de Corps. Friendships last forever in many infantry units.
Cirlio wasn’t going to stand by and do nothing, especially after having a lot of brothers die. He lost more of them at home than he ever did in combat. The ambitious goal of 22 Until None is inside the name. 22 die a day and the goal is to bring the number down to zero. But Cirilo can’t do this alone. With some help they have been able to offer a few things: emergency financial assistance, VA benefits help, help transitioning, advocacy, wellness services, camaraderie, and a 24/7 crisis hotline. But they need a lot more to make a huge dent in a massive problem. Those who can’t donate can support in other ways. They can show up to events and ruck/walk with others. They can also sign a petition in order to tell politicians to get into the fight as well and make progress for vets in need.
Cirilo’s team-mates at his organization are a diverse group who are there to answer calls and assist. There’s “Fiore” a former civilian DoD worker for the Marine Corps and former 911 emergency dispatcher, “Saundy-V” lost her brother, Cpl. Daniel Vilevac who served in the US Marines for 6 years. Dan died October 13, 2013. A few of the 22 advisors are active duty Marines. They have lived through many problems and heartaches and so can relate to veteran issues.
I was able to take quite a few pictures and create a short video. If you can help, please take a look at 22 Until None’s site. Here’s their Facebook page. Their phone number is 281-944-5934, and they are at http://www.22untilnone.org/