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updated: 5/8/2014 11:29 AM

Charity marchers to don combat boots for 30-mile trek

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About 100 people are expected to don combat boots this month for a 30-mile march through the North Shore designed to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress syndrome in the military.

Organizers of the Carry the Fallen march are especially concerned about suicides by military veterans, an issue gaining public attention in recent years because of the lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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"We should all be able to come together as a community to help our brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom," said Elizabeth Diaz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary who is participating in the May 23 hike.

The march will begin in North suburban Highland Park and conclude in Chicago, either at Soldier Field or in Millennium Park. That hasn't been finalized.

In addition to the combat boots, the marchers -- including many veterans, active-duty military personnel and reservists -- will carry 40-pound rucksacks during their trek.

Money raised by the marchers will benefit Active Heroes, a nonprofit group that offers counseling for military families.

An estimated 22 veterans kill themselves daily, a 2012 Veterans Affairs study indicated.

Additionally, between 11 percent and 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD, according to the VA website. The percentage drops to 10 percent for Gulf War veterans but jumps to 30 percent for Vietnam War veterans.

"We've taught them how to go to war. We've taught them how to fight. But we really never taught them how to come home," said Edward Sturtevant, a Wauconda resident and Army veteran who organized the march.

Sturtevant, who spent 18 years in the Army, began organizing the march after doing research on PTSD. He said he's struggled with depression throughout his life.

"I understand how debilitating it can be," he said.

The hike is expected to take 12 hours.

It will begin at 7 a.m. at Highland Park's Memorial Park, 405 Prospect Ave. The walkers will head south through suburban Cook County before entering Chicago.

Several prearranged stations will be set up along the route to allow people to join in. They include Dawes Park in Evanston, Foster Beach in Chicago, North Avenue Beach in Chicago and Navy Pier.

Most of the journey will be on Sheridan Road. Once in Chicago, the route will include stretches of Foster Avenue, Marine Drive, Irving Park Road and Lake Shore Drive.

To participate in the Carry the Fallen march, visit facebook.com/gorucknorthernillinois.

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