Brevard Mission 22 challenge: bring the number to zero


Palm Shores Mayor Carol McCormack encourages participants to ‘do the 22.’

photo by Darrell Woehler

When you hear or think of the number “22,” suicide is not likely to be your first thought. But for several hundred people of all ages who attended the Brevard Mission 22 Push-Up Challenge at Viera High School July 22, it is probably the only thing they can think of now.

The number 22 refers to the number of suicides by U.S. military veterans every day per various government reports. That is nearly one death per hour of every day of every month each year, and it is ongoing. 

Most people hear that statistic and  say, “Wow,” and move on. But when that number came across the desk of Brevard Property Appraiser Dana Blickley, whose father served in the military during World War II, she felt the need to do something.

Brevard County Property Appraiser Dana Blickley, left, McCormack, World War II and Korean War veteran George Rosenfield of Melbourne, another veteran and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey took part in the event. | PHOTO BY DARRELL WOEHLERShe decided to make the national Mission 22 effort into a local one, emceeing the event that pulled together individuals from elected office and military, law enforcement and veteran’s organizations. The event was filled with personal stories of patriotism and pride that turned to tears as each one ended in suicide.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Scott Fairchild, a behavioral psychologist with Baytree Behavioral Health in Viera. Himself a veteran who has suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Fairchild now specializes in treating the illness, in most cases resulting from the battlefield. He stated that in many months he sees as many as 100 veterans, most with wide-ranging issues pertaining to both physical and emotional problems.

Ray Giamporcaro of Counseling to Careers in Titusville told an emotional story on the life, and death by suicide, of Matthew M. Preacher. Among other organizations showing support were National Veterans Homeless Support, led by George Taylor Sr. with his signature black cowboy hat, and The Melbourne Vet Center.

Near the end of the program, Blickley invited elected officials, veterans and others on stage, if able, to stay in place and do the 22 Push-Up Challenge. The stage became packed as did the area in front of the stage with people of all ages doing the 22, or as near as they could. One of the two World War II veterans attending, George Rosenfield of Melbourne, who also served in Korea and nearing 90 years of age, dropped in place and did thirteen push-ups. All veterans were then asked to line up in front of the stage as those in attendance came by to say, “Thank you for your service.”

So when you see someone walking around Brevard wearing a black T-shirt with a big white 22 on the front and a light blue ribbon embroidered on the back, you will know it is a reminder of what can and must be done to bring this terrible number down to zero or at least as near to zero as we can, Fairchild said.

“Even one is too many.”