That’s the number that drove Paulsboro resident James Schissler to get involved in a new fitness challenge with a powerful message
Schissler, a former Gloucester County corrections officer, made headlines in January when he ran 117 miles to honor the lives of 117 police officers killed in the line of duty in 2014.
The obstacle course race trainer has now turned his focus to an alarming statistic about suicide among U.S. military veterans.
Schissler is organizing a local effort to bring attention to the fact that an average of 22 military veterans commit suicide each day.
A national group called Active Heroes, formed to bring attention to the issue of veteran suicides, will hold Workout of the Day (WOD) to End Veteran Suicide on Aug. 22.
Nearly 100 gyms across the nation are taking part in the effort, including five around New Jersey. The event will include 22 exercises and 22 reps of each.
Locally, Schissler is holding the event at South Jersey OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) in Mickleton. Schissler is the director of obstacle course training at OCR, which operates alongside Martial Arts of South Jersey on Southgate Court.
Nearly 70 people have already pledged to take part in the Aug. 22 event.
“It’s important to me because people need to be aware that this is happening and this event will bring a community together to raise veteran suicide awareness and pay tribute to those that have or are currently serving our country,” Schissler said. “I’m proud to be helping Actives Heroes with their mission to spread the word.”
Exercises participants will perform include 22 jumping jacks, 22 push-ups and it all ends with a 2.22-mile run. The whole event will last about three hours, but will end when each participant is finished, Schissler said.
“Everything we are doing at our facility will be strictly bodyweight exercises that anyone can do,” he said.
All aspects of the event come back to driving home the number 22. At minute 22 of the event, participants will observe two minutes of silence to remember those veterans lost to suicide.
The event has special meaning for many at SJ OCR.
“I know a lot of our members have family and friends in the Armed Services and it means a lot to them,” said Alex Saia, owner and chief martial arts instructor at the Mickleton business.
This isn’t Schissler’s first work with Active Heroes. Since 2014, he has participated in Carry the Fallen events in which teams hike for 3, 6, 12 or 22 hours while carrying weights that symbolize the burden many veterans carry after returning from war, Schissler said.
He praised the group’s organization and training methods. When you sign up to take part in an event, the group provides webinars and other training tools to prepare participants. “They are pretty active with the community,” he said.
That’s a trait the group shares with Schissler. The 31-year-old volunteers in a variety of efforts, including feeding the homeless in Philadelphia every other Sunday.
As he prepares for the WOD, he has arranged sponsors to provide prizes for winners of various categories.
He has received donations for prizes from 13 companies, three of which — Nine Line Apparel, Grunt Style and Sox Box — are veteran owned and operated.
Saia noted that helping veterans by promoting continued physical fitness makes sense.
“Working out is a great way to overcome depression and a lot of other health issues,” he said.
Schissler agreed with the benefits of exercising to overcome stress.
“When I’m stressed out, I go for a long run.” he said.
“It’s impossible to eliminate stress and depression. It’s an inevitable part of life. A well-known coping technique is some sort of exercise.”
Funds raised will benefit the Active Heroes Military Family Retreat Program.
Those who cannot attend the event but want to donate can do so, too.