Veterans Day Ruck March in Nutley to raise mental health awareness, food donations

NUTLEY, NJ — The Nutley community is invited to take part in the township’s second Veterans Day Ruck March on Friday, Nov. 11, immediately following the annual Veterans Day ceremony.

This 5K march, which mimics “true military fashion” as participants carry a 22-pound weighted rucksack or backpack, takes participants through Memorial Park from the World War II monument to Kingsland Manor and back. As a way to raise awareness for those veterans struggling with mental health, the weight is a symbol of the average of 22 veterans a day who take their own life.

This year’s event will go one step further. The township has expanded its efforts to benefit resident veterans and others in need as participants are invited to replace the 22 pounds with 22 canned items to be donated to the Nutley Family Service Bureau’s food pantry.

“Last year, we debuted the Veterans Day Ruck March to have an event for the community and our veterans, on Veterans Day, while also bringing awareness to the 22 veterans per day who unfortunately lose their lives to their battles with mental health (issues),” said Daniel Jacoby, of the township’s veteran affairs division. “This year, we will build on this event with the donations of canned goods as another way of supporting our veterans and others less fortunate who rely on the food pantry.”

Established in 2012, the veteran affairs office — a division of the Department of Public Affairs — works closely with the township American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to service the needs of all veterans living in the township. 

“It’s veterans helping veterans,” said Jacoby, an Army veteran himself.

Under the leadership of Department of Public Affairs Commissioner John V. Kelly III, a member of the Army National Guard, the office supports its veteran residents in many ways. 

“We work to make sure the veterans are getting everything they are entitled to,” Kelly said. “We help to provide enrollment to the Veterans Affairs health care system. We will put in for service-connected disability benefits to those who may have injuries or illnesses due to their time in service. We help provide transportation to the VA and we will review cases for anyone who has received a decision they don’t agree with.”

All are invited to participate in the Veterans Day Ruck March on Nov. 11. All participants will be responsible for packing and bringing their own rucksack or backpack. Carrying any weight or no weight will be permissible.

“The Veterans Day Ruck March has a multilayered purpose,” Jacoby said. “It’s a fun and healthy event that will not only bring awareness to those who struggle with mental health, but will also help stock the shelves with food for those less fortunate.”

Registration is open until Oct. 31. For registration and more information, contact Jacoby at 973-284-4951, ext. 2428.