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Veteran walks fifty miles for suicide awareness

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Posted at 8:30 PM, May 23, 2023

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you spend any time along Ocean Drive, you likely saw Christopher Chapple walking.

“I get time to myself. I get time to think,” said Chapple, on the last leg of a 50-mile jaunt.

Chapple is walking, not because he has to, but because he needs to.

“My health has gotten so bad that I was pre-diabetic,” acknowledged Chapple.

So the 33-year retired Army master sergeant laced up his boots and hit the open road.

“It was just me and God walking and talking, and then that young man killed himself,” said Chapple, referring to a teenager who attended his church.

“It just kind of hit me really really deeply,” Chapple reflected.

That stunning incident actually triggered Chapple’s mood swings and PTSD.

“When people are trying to get over on me … I just got from zero to 60 in a heartbeat,” he said.

“I was like a drill sergeant, why people are killing themselves and taking our gifts to the grave.

We’re all invested with a gift, you and me, we’re supposed to release that gift on the world.”

It was at that moment that Chappel challenged himself to up his walking game. With his US Army flag in hand and a rucksack on his back, he spent five days on a walking crusade to raise awareness to prevent suicides.

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“I encourage any vet with suicide … any medical conditions … get help,” said Chapple, who is also a social media influencer.

Licensed professional counselor Emilia O’Neil believes Chapple is literally taking positive steps to find meaning and an explanation for his triggers.

“Instead of keeping it inside and suffering and dealing with those memories,” said O’Neil. “That’s a great healthy way to deal with trauma and to deal with PTSD. “

O’Neil knows this experience firsthand.

She was a first responder in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake that claimed numerous lives.

And when a more recent earthquake struck there, that event triggered O’Neil. It so happened to be on a day she was helping veterans like Chapple.

“And instead of panicking, I told them what was happening and I remember one of them telling me, we got your back. So I think that’s the healing effect,” recalled O’Neil.

O’Neil sees that same healing effect in Chapple’s walk. She believes it not only brings attention, but it could also help those impacted to open up about this difficult subject.

“We use those events and say now I know what it’s all about. Now I can talk about it. And now it can help others going through the same thing,” said O’Neil.

Chapple believes it just takes a leap of faith, one step at a time, to find hope.

“Life is worth living. There is always a chance to start again,” he said.

If you or someone you know needs to speak to someone about suicide, anxiety or PTSD, call the Crisis Hotline at 988.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

Contact Veterans In Focus reporter Pat Simon at pat.simon@kristv.com