Keri grew up in the 60’s where news of the war in Vietnam weighed heavily on our nation. Her grandma cared for and helped raise a young man that later was sent to Vietnam. He was like part of the family; Keri read his letters sent home and prayed for the troops nightly.
As she grew older and watched the first Gulf War unfold on CNN, she knew she wanted to do ‘something’ to support the troops. Eventually she teamed up with a Vietnam veteran to collect and wrap gifts annually at their church to deliver to hospitalized vets. She also volunteered at a getaway for wounded warriors. At this getaway, the key speaker shared of her 30+ years of experience counseling military members with the hidden wounds of war, while stating, “we can’t let those with PTSD fall through the cracks.” Those words made an impact on Keri.
Keri’s son enlisted with the USAF after graduating high school and deployed to Afghanistan right before his 20th birthday. Keri joined an online group for parents of deployed service members. There she met her friend, Susan, a military mom who was anxious about her son, diagnosed with PTS, upon returning from Iraq. Unfortunately, he lost this inner battle and was gone. Keri ran her next marathon in his memory – SGT Andrew Wilson.
As Keri read more of combat trauma and the alarming suicide rates for our military – approximately 22 per day – she was maddened that the stigma of suicide far outweighed the fact that many served and sacrificed, but died in the war zone that never left them once they returned home. While watching memorial videos online, Keri ran across a comment from the father of SGT Chip Wicks, USMC, who took his life after serving in the early days of the Iraq war. “No one cares about these dead heroes who also served. They are forgotten, swept aside.” As Keri read these words of Chip’s father, Boyd, she resolved to always run in memory of these forgotten heroes and do what she could to honor their sacrifice.
Keri and Dayna, close running friends, joined efforts with several others and ran the Rehoboth Beach Marathon for 3 soldiers lost to suicide. By the spring of 2013, they had another marathon coming up, where 11 runners carried 11 soldiers and Marines. Citing the 11 runners + 11 fallen = 22, the name “22 Too Many” was born. The suicide rate of 22 per day had just been officially released by the VA.
Running in memory of the “22 Too Many” spread from a local effort to a nationwide endeavor that encompassed not only running, but walking, ruck marches, cycling, motorcycle rallies and educational events. In all of these, the ’22 Too Many’ pictures and stories are shared.
Keri felt a burden for the grieving family members and started taking classes with the Center for Loss and Life Transitions, taught by Dr. Alan Wolfelt. She completed her Certification in Grief Studies November 2017.
Keri has run 25 marathons, three 50k’s and many half marathons. Inspired by the likes of Andy and Chip, she has carried a picture of 22 Too Many heroes on her back in every race since October 2012, and will continue.
Keri also enjoys playing piano and guitar and writing inspirational music. In addition to 22 Too Many, she manages the Facebook pages 22 Pray and Alternate Melody.