Lift For The 22 Joins Vets to Lift Weights, Lower Suicide Rate

Posted on September 11, 2015

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Recently published on the Military.com website:

Lift For The 22 Joins Vets to Lift Weights, Lower Suicide Rate

“If not for his military buddies and weightlifting, Carter Davis might be dead.
Despondent and suicidal after he and his wife split up, the former U.S. Navy medic sought help at a Veteran’s Administration clinic but left when he learned he could be kept there involuntarily. Instead, he called his Marine buddies for help. They watched movies and talked.
“I realized I needed my brothers more than I needed the doctors,” he said.
Davis, 26, also started working out.
That’s when he saw the potential to help other vets by combining camaraderie and fitness. Davis said his experience inspired him to start Lift For The 22.
The program seeks donations to pay for gym memberships for vets. In addition, Lift For The 22 helps connect vets to each other.
“I’m the first person that Lift For The 22 helped,” Davis said. “I hit the gym when I was going through my darkest phase and it saved my life.”
The Beaverton man began to get the word out with Facebook and Twitter, asking friends to use the hashtag #liftforthe22. He offered T-shirts to vets who posted photos of themselves lifting weights. And word spread.
“22” has become a symbolic number for vets. According to a 2012 Veteran’s Administration report, 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and it has become a mantra for those wanting to help vets in crisis. The number includes soldiers from all U.S. conflicts, not just Iraq and Afghanistan.
The five guys lifting weights in mid-July at Workout Anytime in Beaverton are the first to get free gym memberships through Lift For The 22.
Davis’s goal is to continue the brotherhood/sisterhood many service men and women developed in the military as well as the daily fitness regime. He doesn’t want vets working out alone. He wants them to encourage one another, sharing problems and successes, talking about life, and spotting each other on the weight bench.
Vets need only present discharge papers to participate. They don’t need to have suffered an injury or have served in a war zone. They simply need to be there for each other.
Zack Thompson, 26, served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He graduated from Forest Grove High School with Davis in 2007. Thompson said he was anArmy staff sergeant with a unit responsible for clearing roads of improvised explosive devices.
“I got blown up a couple of times,” he said, casually. The second time, he suffered a brain injury and damage to his feet and ankles. He said he suffers from PTSD, but the workouts and talking with other vets helps.
“It gives me a goal,” he said, finishing a series of 230-pound squats. “It gives me something to strive for.”
Thompson said it’s comforting just being around other vets.
“We don’t have to talk about it,” he said. “We’ve been through the same thing.”
Garret Wilson, 23, graduated from Aloha High School in 2010. A former Marine sergeant, Wilson said he served in Afghanistan but he’s been out of the service now for less than two months. He said his buddies told him it would be a tough transition back to civilian life.
“You’ve been in a community that’s very different,” Wilson said. The humor is different; the language is different. “You can’t really connect with your old high school friends.”
He said he’s known guys who took their own lives, including a soldier from the Beaverton area.
Wilson said he suffered a ruptured eardrum after the Humvee in front of his was blown up in Afghanistan. He also has a knee injury that happened while running a Marine obstacle course.
“There have been days where it has been the highlight of my day,” he said, of meeting with his buddies and lifting weights.
Lift For The 22 recently got a boost with a promise of corporate partnership from Workout Anytime. Rich Hascall, who owns the Beavertonfranchise with his daughter, happened across the group on Facebook and gave Davis a call.
“(Davis) needed a gym that was affordable and accessible, and that fit our program,” said Hascall, who opened Workout Anytime in June.
He offered Lift For The 22 memberships at his gym on Southwest Allen Boulevard. The first ceremony to give away three gym memberships for vets coincided with a visit from Workout Anytime’s vice president for franchise field training, Michael Bolt.
“He was personally moved by it and immediately called the CEO and said we needed to get on board with this,” Hascall said.
Workout Anytime is in the process of launching a campaign for Lift For The 22 with the help of its public relations firm, the company confirmed Monday.
The company has about 80 gyms, mostly in the South and on the East Coast. The one in Beaverton is the first in Oregon.
In addition to the support in the gyms, Davis unveiled an online support network Aug. 1 through the Lift For The 22 website.
Davis continues to work as a security guard for McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove but hopes to eventually work full time with Lift For The 22.
In the meantime, Davis is at the gym with his buddies as often as he can be, lifting and assisting.
Davis said he spent time as a corpsman with the United States Fifth Fleet in the Arabian Gulf and other areas, but it was a freak accident during a soccer game that forced him to leave the military. He has a spinal cord stimulator that keeps him from feeling debilitating pain from a shattered right leg and working out helps keep up his spirits, he said.
But Davis’s medic training remains intact, along with his desire to take care of his platoon.
“I’m a corpsman, I can’t sit by and watch this happen,” he said