Austin vet traveling nationwide to help put an end to veteran suicide

Wednesday, 23 veterans soared over San Marcos, high above the struggles they've faced after returning from war zones.

“We've got to save a life, that’s what it's about,” said Rescues4Warriors Founder Steven Boyd.

“It's great to see the smiles on their faces, forget about life's worries for just a little while,” said General Manager of Skydive San Marcos Victor Krusi. 

The Rescue 22 campaign brings awareness to the 22 veterans that take their own lives each day.

“It's important to me because I've lost 31 brothers by their own hand, only about 17 as a result of combat or combat related injuries,” said Boyd. 

“As an American it makes me mad because we're not taking care of our kids. And, as a veteran, it breaks my heart because it's my brothers and sisters that we're not helping,” said Desert Storm Veteran Brian Wilcox. 

Many of the veterans who fell from the sky Wednesday haven't had that opportunity since they served.

“I haven't jumped since ‘93 and today, it was something different. It was neat. It was exhilarating,” said Wilcox. 

The event may have had a therapeutic feel, but it was also a way to introduce veterans in the Austin area to the Rescue 22 and Rescues4Warriors six-month tour, which takes off in about a week.

“We’ll end up in Washington, D.C. January 22, 2017, two days after the next President is sworn in and we'll show up with a mandate to fix veteran health care and fix the issue of veteran suicide,” Boyd said. 

Boyd, who is leading the charge with the help of his military family, knows firsthand the difficulties of returning to civilian life after being in the military.

“I was one of those that almost considered suicide as a viable option. I was literally seconds away from taking my own life a couple years ago,” said Boyd. 

He credits his rescue dog Djaingo with saving his life, but he never expected that Djaingo's nationwide YouTube fame would also give him a new purpose: to help save other veterans from making a tragic decision.

“He builds in me that which we hope to provide our veterans; confidence, strength, hope and love and it's all through the relationship of a dog,” Boyd said.  

Steven started Rescues4Warriors for that reason, hoping that by setting up rescue dogs with struggling veterans he could save two lives at the same time.

“Veterans have a tendency to fight battles on their own, but I think we all understand or realize that we can't fight battles on our own,” said Boyd. 

He has teamed up with skydiving locations and iFly’s in cities around the U.S. on his way to the nation's capital. So while spreading awareness about mental health issues facing his military family, Steven can also share a moment of healing high in the sky.

The next event will be July 22 in Dallas. From there Steven and Djaingo will move on to Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and finally Washington, D.C.

To learn more about Rescues4Warriors or donate to the campaign click here.