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Army Veterans Raising Awareness For Veterans’ Mental Health With 22 Mile Kayak Journey

Ali Friedlander

Frank Lombardi of IGHL and Chris Levi. (Courtesy Photo)

Two veterans will take on a 22 mile journey by kayak this August in order to raise awareness for their fellow veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Port Jefferson residents Chris Levi and Frank Lombardi served in the 10th Mountain Division, one of the nation's most revered units, and this summer will be honoring the division's motto, "Climb to Glory," as they paddle for a good cause. The duo will travel from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Port Jefferson, New York, on Saturday, August 27th.

"The 10th Mountain Division's motto of 'Climb to Glory' represents hope for all Veterans who are suffering that they can climb out of the darkness and rise to achieve great things," said Lombardi. Levi added, "We want to show our fellow Veterans that there is hope out there and with the right support, they can truly 'Climb to Glory.'"

Lombardi was inspired to do this journey after hearing the statistic that 22 War Veterans commit suicide every day, often because of the mental stress caused by PTSD. The trip will also support a larger global movement called #22Kill which was started by Veterans, with the mission of honoring those who serve or have served our country, and raising awareness about issues like Veteran suicide and mental health issues.

"If we can give hope to just one Veteran and prevent them from taking their own lives, we will consider the trip a huge success," said Lombardi in regards to the journey. He and Levi will be completing the trip for both PTSD awareness, and for Island Harvest's Operation Hope, whose mission is to bring much needed food and support to those who have served, as well as the families of active military members. A supporter of Operation Hope, Lombardi noted of the upcoming kayak journey that "Chris and I are honored to help raise awareness for great organizations that support Veterans who need help. Hopefully, our small gesture will give someone hope and help them 'Climb to Glory!'"

Lombardi and Levi's trip will be sponsored by Alex Rohman, partner at Time Capital, who is an active supporter of the War Writers Campaign and approached Lombardi and Levi with the idea initially. "I called Chris and Frank to see if they would be interested in supporting the trip and they immediately agreed," Rohman said. "Within one day, they wanted to do more to not only support the War Writers Campaign, but wanted to expand the level of awareness to other organizations as well."

In addition to raising awareness for #22Kill, Island Harvest's Operation Hope, and the War Writers Campaign, the journey will also support World T.E.A.M, a group which Levi and Lombardi are both active participants, whose mission is to organize inclusive athletic events for disabled and able-bodied citizens, as well as the Independent Group Home Living Program, Inc. (IGHL), where Lombardi works, based in Manorville, NY, whose mission is to provide lifetime alternatives for children and adults who are intellectually-disabled.

"Both Chris and Frank represent unconditional support for all Veterans and have dedicated their lives to help those who are less fortunate," explained Rohman. "They are true American heroes."

For more information contact Frank Lombardi at 631-878-8900 or flombardi@ighl.org.

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