When marchers converge on Reverchon Park in Dallas this weekend for the culmination of Memorial Day events for the veterans assistance group Carry the Load, wounded warriors like Jacob Schick will be among them. He's fighting to make sure other veterans know he’s still fighting for them.
When you meet Schick for the first time, the first obvious thing is that he’s been through hell. "You know I just had a rough day at the office,” Schick jokes all these years later.
The Marine's office that day was the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, September 2004. "If God wanted me, I'd be gone,” he said. The explosion was a triple-stack tank mine.
“It blew up directly beneath me and blew me 30 feet off the top of the Humvee,” he said. “But I stuck the landing with my head. Because as a Marine, we believe in good form,” he joked again.
A sense of humor obviously returned, but months in hospitals, and dozens of surgeries, the body he’d gone to Iraq with did not. His right leg was severed below the knee. His left leg badly mangled. His left arm and hand ripped apart too.
"When you're lying in bed and having a thumb war with the grim reaper every day for 18 months, you have to grow up pretty quick," Schick said.
"I pride myself in the fact that I know I'm living on borrowed time. And I want to do what I can while I'm here with the time I have left," he said.
He spends his time now as the executive director of the group 22 Kill, the North Dallas support group for veterans. It's named after the staggering statistic that on average 22 veterans, from all U.S. wars, take their lives every day.
The black "Honor Ring" they wear on their right index finger is their trademark, a silent salute to veterans, representative of a goal to black out the trigger finger that takes so many veteran's lives.
"It's very in your face, and it's not very politically correct. Well, I don't have time for that, because I'm sick of going to funerals," he said.
Funerals, like the one just a few weeks ago for Schick’s friend Sgt. Benjamin Adams, a soldier badly injured in combat too. Despite help from his friends, despite wearing that black honor ring, despite being a supporter of the work of 22Kill, earlier this month, Sgt. Adams took his own life, becoming one more of the daily 22.
"You know they all sting. But that one stung a little more than most,” Schick said.
"We did everything we could to help him, and help fight that fight, to help him slay his mental demons,” said Schick. “But I’m a realist that we're never going to bat 1,000. But we work our ass off to do what we can to let people know that you're worth living."
Financial support of groups like Carry the Load, the work, and the fight of 22 Kill helps with arming soldiers with the therapy and peer-to-peer counseling they need to move forward in their civilian lives.
“To embrace our pain, and burn it as fuel to help us fight for the greater good,” said Schick. “Because we still have ground to take, and demons to slay."
Demons to slay, and soldiers to save.