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Arlington, Va. -- An Army platoon in Iraq will run five kilometers (5K) in full body armor on April 17 to raise awareness about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the need to end stigma surrounding mental illness.
Forward Operating Base Echo in ad-Diwaniyah, Iraq will hold the event at the same time the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) affiliate in San Diego holds a NAMIWalk at a more leisurely pace.
NAMI San Diego will move out Saturday at 8:00 a.m. (PT) while 3rd Platoon, Baker Company of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team and others begin the 5K run at 19:00 hours (Iraq time).
"This is an incredible event," said NAMI National Executive Director Mike Fitzpatrick. "NAMI is honored that Army soldiers in a war zone have synchronized their commitment to public education with our San Diego affiliate."
"NAMIWalks across the country are about hope, recovery and community. They are fun events, but they support serious work."
"As the U.S. Army has taught me, not all wounds are visible," said Army specialist John Bell, who is organizing the Iraq event.
"As tough as a U.S. service member may be, many still suffer the effects of having endured life in a combat zone. The most prominent effect is PTSD. Not every combat-deployed soldier has been in a firefight, or had their vehicle struck by an IED, or even lost a friend by an enemy engagement. But the trauma they endure is nonetheless significant to them."
For two years, NAMI San Diego development and events manager, Annie Dunlop told Bell, a friend, about NAMIWalks. Deployed in Iraq, he was unable to participate. This year he didn't want to miss out. The 5K will honor NAMI San Diego's work and NAMI efforts to help veterans nationwide through its on-line Veterans Resource Center and other programs.