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There is almost nothing sadder than the suicide of a United States veteran. Unfortunately, this occurs far too often.

Men and women who have served America in the armed forces deserve jobs, homes and encouragement from those whose lives they helped protect.

And yet many vets have none of those things. Physical injuries and the mental and emotional stress they bring home are too much for many of them to bear.

As a result, more than 20 U.S. veterans commit suicide on a daily basis, on average. A number of organizations have been established to attempt to deal with this horrific problem. Among them is Mission 22.

Financial Goal to Double This Year

Michael Berger of New Jersey and his off-roading Jeep club could not have chosen a better beneficiary for their annual fundraiser than Mission 22.

“We do not have any veterans or active military in our club, but my grandfather was a P.O.W. of World War II and Mission 22 is very near and dear to my heart,” Michael said.

“They were great to work with. Mission 22 supported us in many different ways in connection with our off-roading fundraiser.

“We had a goal of raising $5,000 for Mission 22 and we ended up raising $6,022. This year our goal will be to double last year and hit $12,000 as $6,000 is the approximate amount of money needed for a veteran’s annual treatment.”

Wheel 2 Heal Drives Around Pandemic Roadblocks

The fundraising event was called Wheel 2 Heal. Co-sponsored by Michael’s 11-member off-roading club, Apex Off Road, and the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) in Coal Township, Pennsylvania where the event was held December 13, it featured 94 registered vehicles.

“COVID-19 certainly hindered the attendance, and due to social distancing there was not the get-togetherness that we’ve historically had at our fundraisers, but it was overall a successful event,” Michael said.

“AOAA offers four different trails – green, blue, black and red – from easy to hard. People checked in and hit the trails, and that’s where they were most of the day.

“We got lucky with the weather. It was in the mid to upper 40s. They were calling for rain but we had zero precipitation and the fog dissipated quickly.”

Sponsors Make Raffle, Auction Possible

As with any fundraiser, sponsors are the keys. They came through in a big way to make the Wheel 2 Heal raffle and auction successful.

“Sponsors are the backbone of all that helps drive awareness to the event and the cause,” Michael said. “We had 60 sponsors in December, including some that donated items we were able to use at the event.”

They included Midland Radio walkie-talkies for the volunteers to use to communicate with each other, chairs and a P.A. system. 4Patriots donated HaloXT flashlights and Patriot Power Cells.

“And partnering with AOAA was a huge help,” Michael added. “They have a great facility with 6,500 acres and a passion for veterans like we have.”

Mission 22 Meets Vets Where They Are Today

Mission 22 is based in Sisters, Oregon. It was founded in 2013 by Magnus Johnson, a Green Beret and three-tour combat veteran. “22” stands for the number of U.S. veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis.

One of the organization’s mottos is, “When their tour is over, our mission begins.” Another is, “It takes a community to heal a warrior.”

Mission 22 offers treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse, and many other issues veterans face today.

Organization Provides Transformational Power

The organization’s recovery and resiliency program leverages the timeless principles of human healing and combines it with modern science to create a program that targets healing at its source.

Mission 22 puts these powerful, biometric and supplemental tools and healing fundamentals into veterans’ hands so they’re never left in the dark about the next positive step they need to take.

Veterans learn how to reframe their physical and psychological environment to transform what was once a severe trauma suffered for the rest of us into a treasure the rest of us can learn from.

Planning Starts for Next Event

Michael said he first became interested in off-roading five years ago.

“My buddy was looking to get a Jeep and I figured, why not get one too?” he said. “Since then we joined a Jeep club and then created our own.

“We started Apex Off Road 2½ years ago. Our members live on the East Coast, as far south as south New Jersey and as far north as New York. We meet monthly on average, more so to get together, catch up, talk, work on our Jeeps and hit some trails.

“As our meetings get closer to our fundraiser, it’s more about planning. There’s a lot that goes into these types of events, especially when it comes to securing sponsors.”

The club’s next fundraising event – also in conjunction with AOAA and benefiting Mission 22 – is scheduled for November 13, 2021. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the cause may contact Michael at sponsorship@apexoffroad.org

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