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Over 50 people plunge into cold waters to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Despite the freezing temperatures a group in the Shoals plunged into the Tennessee River at McFarland Park to raise awareness about veterans committing suicide and mental health issues.

Posted: Jan. 1, 2018 4:51 PM
Updated: Jan. 1, 2018 4:52 PM

Despite the freezing temperatures a group in the Shoals plunged into the Tennessee River at McFarland Park to raise awareness about veterans committing suicide and mental health issues.

The water temperature was below 50 degrees and a bitter wind chill couldn't stop the dedicated group from the plunging into the water.

"It was a shock to say the least," said veteran Lee Kasmeier, who plunged into the water. "I've been in some cold water before but it's all to bring recognition to a good cause."

Florence police water units were on stand by and a warming tent was on had to help the polar plungers warm up after their dip.

"This is the coldest we've done this," said veteran Josh Miles.

Miles helps organize the event every year to raise awareness about mental health issues and suicide rates among veterans.

"The VA reports that about 22 veterans a day, from Vietnam veterans to today's war veterans, take their life and that's unacceptable," said Miles.

For Miles the purpose for the plunge is personal.

"My Marine Core brother took his life a few years ago and I felt like he didn't feel he could ask for help," said Miles. "It's something that I don't know how to fix it, but we've got to talk about it and let people know.

They are hoping the plunge will show other veterans they're not alone and can talk with loved ones about what they are dealing with.

"It's a way for us young people to show them that we really care," said first time plunger, Chandler Gibson.

Event organizers said over the years more and more people have started doing the plunge with them to help raise awareness. They said it's overwhelming to see the support.

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