BGSU Student Veterans of America members embarking on 22-mile ruck to honor fallen heroes, raise awareness on veteran suicide

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Ahead of the rivalry showdown between the Falcons and Rockets on the gridiron, members of the Bowling Green State University chapter of Student Veterans of America will complete a ruck – or military-style march – from the University of Toledo Glass Bowl to Doyt L. Perry Stadium at BGSU on Saturday, Nov. 11, where students will deliver both the game ball and a dose of awareness on veteran suicide.

During the Battle of I-75 Ruck the Ball event on Veterans Day, students will carry 50-pound rucksacks while they cover the symbolic 22-mile distance between the two points and raise awareness of the number of veterans and military personnel who are victims of suicide.

“We want to bring attention to this epidemic of veterans taking their own lives, and find ways to reach out to them and support them as a community,” said Megan Missler, a junior construction management major and a member of the Ohio Army National Guard who has been the primary driving force behind the event.

“The 22 miles between the two stadiums couldn't measure out more perfectly, since 22 is the number of veterans and military members we lose to suicide every day. The suicide crisis is in the front of our minds – I just lost a member of my battalion last month,” Missler said.

Stepping off at 8 a.m. from the Glass Bowl with a police escort, the students plan to ruck through Perrysburg and follow Dixie Highway – State Route 25 – to BGSU. They expect the ruck to take about 10 hours.

BGSU representatives also met with Student Veterans of America chapter members at UToledo to coordinate the event, where students from both schools will ruck alongside each other.

“We hope this brings veterans together as well, even veterans that don't know each other, because in the military it is a big family – it doesn't matter what branch you are in,” said Missler.

The BGSU chapter of Student Veterans of America serves military-connected students, whether they be veterans, active duty, National Guard, reservists or dependents. The group seeks to have all military students succeed in higher education, achieve their academic goals and gain meaningful employment.

The University's consistent support of veterans and military students led to BGSU once again ranking No. 1 in the Midwest for veterans and active military students by Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2023 rankings.

Geoff Roberts, the military program coordinator for Nontraditional and Military Student Services at BGSU, said the choice to do a ruck is significant because it is one of the oldest forms of battle movement and many military members have taken part in one.

“Many of us veterans, myself included, have lost close friends that we served with to suicide, so the notion of highlighting that issue is very important,” Roberts said. “The fundamental view in the military is that you don't leave anyone behind, so you find ways to support the veterans who might be struggling and feeling lost or alone.”

For Madelyn Goodale, a BGSU junior majoring in biology, the ruck also has a very close, personal connection. She is co-president of the BGSU SVA chapter and a member of the Ohio Army National Guard who comes from a military family.

“I've always been drawn to the military because of my dad and his service, and I know that too many of his buddies from the military have been lost,” she said. “We all know people who have taken their own lives and we desperately want to bring awareness to this and let people know they are not alone. Since I serve as well, this is much more of an issue for me.”

Goodale said events such as the rivalry ruck allow her and other members of the military community to stay connected and offer support and encouragement to one another that could be vital to overall health and well-being.

“Everyone struggles,” she said. “But that isolation and emptiness so many veterans feel – that needs to change. It's not something we can do overnight, but it is something we have to work very hard to change.”

With plans to make the BGSU-UToledo pregame ruck an annual event, the students hope to eventually incorporate a fundraising element to support more programs on campus for veterans and military-connected students.

“An event like the ruck is so important since it will make people more aware of the challenges that some military members face, especially when they try to go back to normal lives,” Missler said. “I hope that we can do this for years and years to come, and really make it a game changer.”

Updated: 11/08/2023 04:03PM