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It’s Our Turn To Defend Them

1st Annual Anthony Muhlstadt Defender Ruck Walk

Marines led the way for the 1st Annual Anthony Muhlstadt Defender Ruck Walk held in St. Petersburg, Florida, on June 24th, 2023. Following the Marines lead were more than 280 fellow service members, veterans, and community members who took the time to strap on their rucks and head out on a blistering 5k walk to raise funds for the Stop Soldier Suicide organization. The start and finish lines were located at Gateway Baptist Church. While the ruckers were on their journey, Right Way Elevator Maintenance was busy grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for the hungry crowd. Inside VAN’s Veterans’ Village, VAN Members and event sponsors stood up their tents and tables with gifts, water, and cooling rags for the returning participants.

Through sponsorship, donations, ticket sales, and raffles, the organizers raised more than $22,000 for the Stop Soldier Suicide organization with plans to continue the awareness effort throughout the year.

“Plans are already underway for the 2024 Anthony Muhlstadt Defender Ruck Walk,” says Gold Start Mom Tanya Mort, mother of SGT Anthony Muhlstadt, who lost his life to suicide in 2021.

Toni Hedstrom of VAN (Veteran Approved Network) said, “This is an ongoing fight for awareness and prevention. We will never stop our efforts to involve the community and stand together to find a resolution for our service members and veterans.”

Guests at the event included Florida State Senator Jay Collins.

“Ultimately, we all bled the same, we all chewed the same dirt, we all served this great nation,” Collins said.

To lose someone you love to suicide is an unimaginable pain. You are left to question every moment of your life with that person, constantly wondering why you didn’t see the signs, couldn’t help, and thought there was something you should have done. You carry deep sadness, anger, and pain with you as you try to accept the sun’s rising each day of your life. Why does the sun rise? Why does the world continue to turn like nothing has happened? This has happened. I have lost my loved one, my loved one is gone, and I don’t understand why.

For the family of USMC SGT Anthony Muhlstadt, these questions remain, now and forever. They will never know the why, but their love and dedication to honor Anthony will carry them through. Anthony, described as a “Defender,” someone who always stood up for the underdog, deserves us to stand up for him now. To come together as a community to raise awareness for suicide prevention in his memory.

USMC SGT Anthony P. Muhlstadt, born June 26, 1998, died on November 19, 2021, while proudly serving his country.

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