Husker marching band steps to raise awareness for military suicides

The Cornhusker Marching Band performs at the start of the Sept. 2 game with Arkansas State University. More than 30 members of the band are participating in the 22 in 22 Challenge, which is designed to raise awareness about veteran suicides and raise funds for veteran support services. (Craig Chandler/University Communication)

The Cornhusker Marching Band is putting a little extra meaning into each glide, left step and high knee during the month of October, according to a press release by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.

More than 30 members of UNL's marching band are participating in the 22 in 22 Challenge, a national campaign designed to raise awareness about military suicides and generate donations for veteran support services.

"Every day, an average of 22 soldiers commit suicide," said Lena Buckner, a senior baritone player and member of the band's leadership team. "It's a cold, hard, heartbreaking number that most people are unaware of. It made me take a step back and I realized that participation in 22 in 22 was really important."

The challenge was launched in 2016 by Delaware teen Jacob DiSabatino and his father, Brian DiSabatino.

"Not everyone knows that our band started in the 1880s as way to improve the drill work of students in the military cadet program," Tony Falcone, associate director of the Cornhusker Marching Band, said. "It continued to be a military band until the late 1930s."

The challenge started Oct. 1 with members pledging to march at least one mile each day through Oct. 22. Band members were not required to participate in the project, but the student response has been enthusiastic.

"As members of the Cornhusker Marching Band, we're able to have all sorts of positive influences on the public," Buckner said. “This is one of those."

"Marching one mile a day is such a very small thing for us – we already do it anyway. But to be able to take something we do every day and use it to increase awareness about veteran suicide is an amazing opportunity to make a positive impact," Buckner said.

As the participating students count steps, they also encourage friends, families and members of the public through social media posts to learn more about the cause and donate to 22 in 22. The band surpassed its fundraising goal four times, having collected more than $1,500 so far.

All funds raised will be donated to Stop Soldier Suicide, a veteran-created-and-led nonprofit with the goal of preventing military suicides.

"This is a chance for the band to use its public profile to serve," Falcone said. "If our efforts can help even one soldier, that's something the students will carry with them for the rest of their lives."

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