5 questions for...Chuck Roche, Marine raising awareness about suicide
Updated 11:28 am, Thursday, November 9, 2017
FAIRFIELD — When Chuck Roche hits the ground running Friday morning, he won’t be running from something — he’ll be running for something.
The 37-year-old personal trainer will be running for 24 hours straight in order to raise awareness and funding for suicide prevention among veterans. About 20 veterans commit suicide every day and the risk for suicide is 22 percent higher among veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
When he left the military in 2010, Roche said, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism and got help through the VA in New Haven and through working out.
Appropriately, Roche will start his quest on the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps and end the next morning on Veterans Day. Roche himself spent eight years as a Marine, some of them as a drill sergeant, and did a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006. His goal is to raise $22,000 for Mission 22, which aids veterans dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
“I train hard,” Roche said, of what others might think is a daunting challenge. “I could walk out the door right now and run a marathon. I take care of myself.”
In fact, he recently won the Tesla Hertz, a 104.8-mile marathon, with a record-breaking time.
Roche will start his 24-hour marathon at the Fit Club, a gym in the Sportsplex on Mill Plain Road where he works out and that he describes as being the most like his Marine Corps family.
Q: How does the fundraiser work?
A: I am running a 22-mile route continually for 24 hours, and people can pledge money toward that.
The route will go through Southport, by the beaches in Fairfield to St. Mary’s and back. I ran the route about two weeks ago; it’s basically the coastline route.
People can go to my link, mission22.networkforgood.com/projects/39232-22-miles-for-24-hours, to make a donation.
Q: What is the impetus for the fundraiser?
A: I look at it as a day off from life, for me. It’s for Mission 22, an organization that raises funds to prevent veterans’ suicide. I’ve lost a couple of friends myself.
Q: Is veteran suicide a new issue or one that has been around but not getting the needed attention?
A: I think it’s always been an issue, but I also think it has a lot to do with our times, and what we’re expected to do.
When you leave the military, you have PTSD, you can’t relate to anyone, you have no job. You go apply for a job managing a supermarket, but even with your credentials and what you’ve done — you’re probably so much better than the next guy — but you don’t get the job.
Q: Does the “tough guy” reputation of the military hold servicemen and women from getting the help they need?
A: Tough guys. Yeah, that’s our bearing.
I was a Marine Corps drill sergeant. We commit in the military to being strong, being tough. You learn it during boot camp. We scream in your face all day long, and you hold your bearing. There is a lot of pride in that.
So, how is that person supposed to say, “I’m sad, I’m depressed.” It’s so tough.
Q: What do you think needs to be done in efforts to prevent veteran suicide?
A: I think what needs to be done is people to learn it’s OK if you’re sad or depressed and to ask for help. I went to the VA for two years, and I learned a lot — that when you have these issues, well it’s OK and let’s work on them. That’s the main thing right there.
More and more famous vets, and there’s a lot of them, have to speak up more. Take a look at me now. It’s OK to seek help. If you had an issue with your hand, you’d go to get medical help.