Retired U.S. Marine salutes, stands on DC median for 24 hours to raise awareness for veteran suicide

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A retired U.S. Marine walked onto a concrete median in Washington D.C. on Sunday and stood for a period of 24 hours — with the hope of bringing awareness to veteran suicide.

Retired U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers, 45, held a salute for 22 minutes at the beginning of the first hour to symbolize the American veterans who take their own life each day. For each hour after, the salute drops by one minute before it eventually counts down to zero.

“It’s a very emotional time, very emotional,” Chambers’ wife, Lorraine Heist-Chambers told Washington’s WJLA-TV. “This is something that he needs to do every year and I support him for it. No matter what it takes, we get out here.”

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Chambers began saluting motorcyclists for long periods back in 2002 when he was in his 20s during Rolling Thunder, an annual protest and gathering dedicated to service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War.

The veteran hasn’t missed the event in over two decades. In previous years, he would hold a salute for between three and five hours as hundreds of thousands of motorcycles drove by, according to the station.

The specific event — which highlighted veteran suicide for the first time this year — is now called Rolling To Remember. While the Memorial Day weekend ride was canceled in D.C. due to the coronavirus, more than one hundred riders still showed up to watch Chambers.

He reportedly held his position without food, water or bathroom breaks.

“I couldn’t do it. I’m looking for a bathroom,” Fredericksburg resident Robert Hall told the station. “He’s dedicated. And a lot of people today have not dedication.”

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Chambers also has a charity called, “The Saluting Marine Cares,” which helps pay for veteran’s medical bills left uncovered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to WJLA-TV.

“Health, relationships, financial, those are the biggest things that contribute to suicide,” said Sabrina Barella, who helps run his charity. “None of us take a salary with the charity, so everything goes to veterans. We don’t believe in handouts but we believe in hand-ups.”

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The number of Veteran suicides has exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 to 2017, according to a 2019 V.A. report. It found that roughly 17 veterans take their own life each day. Those numbers are down from a 2012 V.A. report which found that 22 veterans committed suicide each day on average.

David Aaro is a Reporter at Fox News Digital based in New York City.