A Marine on a Mission
One week from now, Daniel Chism will walk out the front door of his Quincy home and point himself west. Chism then will begin walking – one foot in front of the other, one step at a time – to Rock Island.
Chism plans to carry an American flag with him on his mission to walk the rolling hills that make up the 22-mile stretch from Quincy to Rock Island. His goal is to draw attention from the hundreds of motorists traveling along Highway 28.
Just why would Chism, a journeyman boilermaker and father of two young boys, choose to walk along a busy highway, a trek that should take him at least seven hours to complete?
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Chism has a new call of duty. He wants to draw attention to the veterans organization 22KILL, which works to educate the public about veteran suicides. Some 22 veterans commit suicide a day, according to the organization.
“One a day is bad enough,” Chism said recently.
A friendly man with an outgoing, fun personality, Chism, 34, has been calling Quincy home for the past six years. His two boys, whose names are tattooed on the proud father’s forearms, attend local schools here.
Chism described himself as a “class clown” at Chelan High School, where he graduated. He always seemed to find a different way of doing things than his classmates, he joked.
Out of high school in 2000, Chism knew he wanted to be an infantryman. When he went to Wenatchee to enlist in the U.S. Army, the recruiter happened to be out at the time. However, the Marine Corps recruiter asked if Chism would consider the Marines instead.
“And I was, like, why not?” he said.
Later, 9/11 and the attacks on the United States only “sealed” his decision to become a Marine, Chism said.
In 2003, Chism and Bravo Company 17 traveled to Kuwait in preparation for the United States’ invasion of Iraq. From Kuwait, the company marched to Baghdad and aided in the capital’s fall to coalition forces. Chism and his company then were based in Al Najaf, Iraq, after the invasion, serving as a part of the security force there.
Chism has been out of the Marines since 2004. But the brotherhood he experienced while serving is still on his mind. Most recently, Chism has been working out, losing weight and getting into shape. His new found energy made him realize he was in a good place in life so it was time for him to give back, he said.
Chism first came up with the idea of doing a fundraising walk in support of veterans. But who would he try to help?
A conversation with a friend and a little research on the Internet led Chism to the 22Kill website. A relatively new organization, 22Kill was started in 2013 by the Honor Courage Commitment organization in an effort to combat staggering veteran suicide statistics.
Studies also show that veterans are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than nonveterans. The name 22KILL was adopted to grab people’s attention, Chism said.
A symbol of the organization and its efforts is the Honor Ring, a black band worn on the index finger as a “silent salute” to all veterans past and present, according to 22KILL. It’s a reminder to other veterans that they are never alone. Chism has been wearing the band on his hand for about a month now.
22KILL also has an online resource map that connects veterans to local VFWs, veterans hospitals and even fellow veterans called “Battle Buddies.” However, Chism was discouraged to find few local resources listed on the map for Eastern Washington. In fact, there were only four Battle Buddies listed on this side of the state.
“This just tells me that nobody knows what the organization is,” Chism said.
Today, there is one more Battle Buddy added to that map; Chism has registered with 22KILL, hoping to serve as a resource, or just a shoulder to lean on, for other veterans.
“I’ve had experiences in life that could help out fellow veterans,” he said.
It can be difficult leaving the brotherhood of the military, a tight-knit community where comrades depend heavily on one another, Chism said. Oftentimes, when veterans leave the military, they are dispersed around the country, losing that connection to one another, he said.
“You’re kind of starting all over again,” Chism said.
Along with working out to prepare for his walk to Rock Island on Feb. 12, Chism has been reaching out to the police and fire departments and to veterans programs in the area, encouraging them to get on the 22KILL resource map.
While the walk to Rock Island is his first step in gaining more visibility for 22KILL in this area, Chism’s long-term goals include building up that resource map so that it’s covered in Battle Buddies throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho. He also wants to be the go-to guy for 22KILL in this area.
So watch for Chism on Feb. 12, wearing his 22KILL T-shirt and beanie and carrying an American flag, as he walks along Highway 28. For the Quincy man, there is deep meaning in his upcoming journey.
“It’s exactly 22 miles from my door to the Shell station at Rock Island,” he said.
For more information about 22KILL, contact Chism at 360-951-7216.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org