Charlotte firefighters, veterans trek 22 miles for mental health

Operation New Dawn: Welcome Home

Charlotte firefighters, veterans trek 22 miles for mental health

Charlotte firefighter Drew Rucks has a heart for service.

In 2010, Rucks joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Rucks, and many veterans like him, are compelled to continue working to make their country and community better.

On Saturday, the Charlotte Fire Department is joining the U.S. Veterans Hall of Fame and its community partners for the third annual mental health awareness walk, “Operation New Dawn: Welcome Home.”

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The 22-mile walk will be used to raise funds and awareness for the express purpose of supporting veterans, many of whom are dealing with mental health situations after their military service, helping them meet their essential needs.

“Many fire service members have a deep connection to military service,” Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said.

“Many veterans have found solace within the fire service, and our ranks have been strengthened because of it.”

Rucks joined the Charlotte Fire Department in 2015 and is also a first lieutenant with the North Carolina Army National Guard. He will join with his fellow firefighters on Saturday to support the effort of Operation New Dawn.

The 22 miles symbolize, and are in memory of, the 22 veterans lost to suicide daily in America.

Organizers hope to bring awareness to veteran suicide and the organizations striving to bring this epidemic to an end.

The mission of the U.S. Veterans Hall of Fame is to pay public tribute to the men and women of prior military service who exemplify great character and service.

“The Charlotte Fire Department is doing our part to confront mental illness and help dispel long-held stigmas about post traumatic stress disorder,” Johnson said. “We owe a great deal to veterans for their sacrifice.”


Starting at 8 a.m., a team of veterans will set out on a 22-mile walk from Concord Mills Mall to the Wells Fargo bank at 6200 Fairview Road, which is located near South Park Mall.

As various points along the route, the Charlotte Fire Department will escort the walkers.

Organizers are also seeking mile supporters to sponsor the walk at the levels shown below:

  • $0.25 per mile, which equals a $5.50 donation in total.
  • $0.50 per mile, which equals an $11.00 donation in total.
  • $1.00 per mile, which equals a $22.00 donation in total.
  • $2.00 per mile, which equals a $44.00 donation in total.

The money raised from this endeavor will be used for the ongoing support of veteran outreach outlets, therapies and other daily necessities.

To ensure safety and decrease the possibility of coronavirus transmission, anyone interested in doing this walk is asked to participate virtually.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.