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Marine veteran runs to raise suicide awareness

Ottumwa Courier - 6/2/2018

June 02--OTTUMWA -- Brian Geerts won't give up. He may stop in a storm, sleep for the night, pause to check out a monument to his Brother and Sister veterans. But he won't give up.

Geerts is running the entire state of Iowa; just to be sure, he started in Omaha, Nebraska. He'll end in Illinois, at the Rock Island Armory. Toward the end, he'll stop a couple nights in an Ottumwa hotel. Each night, he and his giant American flag will get some rest, then get a ride back to wherever he stopped. He'll start from there.

"This is to raise awareness for veteran suicides, and post traumatic stress," he told the Courier by phone Friday evening.

He makes 22 miles per day, the same number of veterans who, suffering from PTSD or other chemical brain disorders, take their own lives rather than seeking help.

He'd actually stopped in Ottumwa to check the place out a few weeks before starting his 16-day, 350-plus mile run. An Ottumwa resident saw him and another man, both in U.S. Marine Corps shirts, checking out the Freedom Rock at Bridge View Center. They told her about the run -- and that Geerts should be coming through Ottumwa on Sunday.

"They should see me walking down Highway 34 from Albia on Sunday," he said. "I'm about eight miles behind schedule."

His feet are covered in blisters, he said, which is part of why he's walking. And it's more challenging to make up time; but he's not losing much time on his forced march. The loss came when he ran into darkness one afternoon, which soon turned to a lightning storm.

"So I stopped," he said.

He estimates he could be coming into Ottumwa Sunday late afternoon or early evening: Best guess, he said, about 5 p.m. He then hopes to get back over to the Freedom Rock.

Brian is on Facebook under Vet Flag Run.

Staff writer Mark Newman can be contacted at MNewman@ottumwacourier.com.


(c)2018 the Ottumwa Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa)

Visit the Ottumwa Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa) at www.ottumwacourier.com

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