Battle of the Branches 5K run / 2K walk held

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Not the last, but, final returning participants in the Battle of the Branches 5K near the finish line as dusk sets in. A total of 41 area fitness enthusiasts of all ages took part in the event to help raise veteran suicide awareness on May 19.

Suicide among veterans numbers 17 per day

By Raymundo Frasquillo

CLIFTON – Three area fitness enthusiasts were rewarded for their efforts, following the Morenci Recreation Center’s Battle of the Branches 5K run / 2K walk on May 19. Each received a backpack. The course was the Kiko Trail on Clifton’s Shannon Hill.

They finished first in their respective divisions, Anthony Heathman – Youth (17 & Under), Grant Horracks – Adult Male (18 & Over), and Cassandra Garcia Adult Female (18 & Over). A total of 41 runners/walkers of all ages participated in the event.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Anthony Heathman, left, finished first in the Youth (17 & Under) category; Grant Horracks, middle, was first in the Adult Male (18 & Over) category; and Cassandra Garcia, right, was first in the Adult Female (18 & Over) category.

It was billed as a friendly competition between the military branches to raise money and awareness in the fight against Veterans’ Suicide. One branch won the title for most registered participants representing their favorite military branch, the Navy with 12, but all are considered winners. The money raised was donated to that awareness.

According to Charles R. Hooper in an article posted with the American Addiction Centers last month, veterans comprise nearly a quarter of suicide deaths in the United States.

In 2020, there were 6,146 veteran suicides, which averages to 16.8 veterans dying by suicide every day. Additionally, in the two decades between 2001 and 2020, the prevalence of mental health or substance abuse disorder (SUD) among participants using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) rose from 27.9 percent to 41.9 percent.

The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population. Comparing the rate among women veterans to non-veteran adult women, the rate is 2.5 times higher. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported the highest suicide rate among women using VA health services as 20 per 100,000. Since 2017, that number has decreased and was reported to be approximately 14 per 100,000 in 2020.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Participants in the May 19 2K or walkers leave the starting line after the 5K runners.

Suicide rates have been historically high among young and older veterans. In the 20 years between 2001 and 2020, the suicide rate among veterans between 18 and 34 increased by 95.3 percent. During the same period, the suicide rate among veterans between the ages of 55 and 74 rose 58.2 percent. From 2019 – 2020, however, the suicide rate for older veterans decreased while the suicide rate among veterans in the 18-34 age group increased.

Editor’s Note: If you are a veteran in crisis or concerned about a veteran click here to be directed to the Veterans Crisis Line website.