Dean Rhein has used running as a means to help himself battle the demons that come with being an Iraq combat veteran.
Now he’s going to run to help other combat veterans. The Veterans Suicide Awareness 22 Hour Walk, Run & Ruck fundraiser hopes to raise awareness about veteran suicides and raise money to help those in need.
Rhein and retired Colonel Christopher Wilson are hosting the event in Derby this weekend. The 22-hour event runs from midnight to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Rhein and Wilson will run or walk for 22 hours, starting at The Coffee House at 1815 E. Madison Ave. in Derby. Anyone is welcome to join them to run or walk for any amount of time. The route is a 1/4 mile loop around the The Coffee House.
The 22 hours signifies the average number of United States combat veterans who commit suicide every day.
Josh Kegley of Manhattan, who served with Rhein in Iraq, started a “22 Buddy Check” social media group in April of 2016 after three soldiers who served with Kegley and Rhein took their own lives after returning from Iraq. The idea behind the #22BuddyCheck social media groups is to have veterans reach out to their fellow solider on the 22nd of every month to check their well-being. Several such groups exist across the country. Kegley also will be in Derby for the event.
Rhein, known to friends and in the Wichita running community as “Mean Dean,” recently completed the Prairie Fire Marathon and was a member of the race’s “Local Joes” team. He completed the 26.2 mile Prairie Fire race in six and a half hours, so he’s no stranger to long runs and long distances. Wilson also ran the Prairie Fire race, making it his sixth marathon finish.
Silent auction and raffle items will be available and there will be more information available about veteran suicides and what one can do to help. Donations will be accepted on site and put towards Kegley’s #22BuddyCheck organization.
Rhein knows all too well the challenges faced by combat veterans. In addition to the loss of three fellow soldiers to suicide, Rhein has struggled with his own combat-related issues.
“Every day is a challenge for me,” Rhein said. “Running has been that outlet for me. It’s saved my life more than once.”
For Rhein, the event was a perfect way to combine two things he’s passionate about.
“My running family doesn’t replace my military family, but it’s still a family and it helps. It helps pick me back up.”
Visit “Veterans suicide awareness 22 hour walk, run, & ruck fundraiser” on Facebook for more information about the run or how to donate.