An average of 22 U.S. veterans die by suicide every day and on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022 Moline martial artist John Morrow exercised his right to do something about it.
The super-strong 70-year-old not only raised $1,130 in donations for the Black Hawk College Veterans Resources Center. On the 22nd, Morrow began shortly after 2:22 p.m. at his Morrow’s Academy of Martial Arts (1321 5th Ave., Moline) and proceeded to do 22 sets of 22 leg lifts and 22 sit-ups (a total of 484 each).
His father, a Navy veteran from World War II, died by suicide at age 50 in 1977. John Morrow was inspired to get involved in the “22” cause after hearing an Optimist Club talk on the topic earlier this month from Tom Reagan, a Marine Corps veteran and former East Moline police officer, who is BHC’s coordinator of veterans services.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, far more veterans have died from suicide (30,000) than from combat.
“There are 22 suicides every day,” Morrow said. “We want to bring special awareness to that. My father was a veteran, who died of suicide. It really means a lot to me. The idea is, ‘What’s your 22?’ I’ll do 22 leg lifts, 22 sit-ups for 22 minutes, to bring awareness.”
In front of a small audience of his students, and members of Reagan’s family, Morrow did his 22 sets (calling out each number), as his students James Ackerman and Blaze Carr did push-ups while he did each set of leg lifts. Morrow took short breaks between sets to quote inspirational sayings and thank specific donors to the campaign.
He owns the world record for most push-ups done on the backs of hands in one minute (123), and in 2011 at St. Ambrose University, Morrow did 2,000 of those push-ups in the second annual “Push-Ups for Peace,” to benefit the Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad-Cities, Kids Against Hunger and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
For the veteran suicide issue this month, Morrow asked his friends and supporters to donate $22 to improve services for Black Hawk’s Veterans Resource Center and serve more vets, as well as for projects and programs of the Quad Cities Student Veteran Advocacy Group.
Reagan has been in this position for four years (he was in the Marine Corps 1986 to 1991, including in the first Gulf War).
“Once I started working in veterans services, I started to see the mental health issues some of the veterans were suffering with,” he said Thursday said. Suicide among veterans is twice the national average in the U.S.
This year, BHC has worked with St. Ambrose, Western Illinois University and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, to ask “What’s Your 22?” and get people to help raise awareness of veteran suicide, Reagan said. Morrow did his version Thursday, and other people choose their own causes.
A lady in the BHC finance department baked 22 recipes of cookies during the year — “which was fantastic. because she’d come over and give me samples of what she did and I think I gained 22 pounds because of that,” Reagan said.
Someone else donated 22 hours at a homeless shelter; people donated $22 to the cause — you can do that on this BHC website (“22 in 22 for 22”) HERE. The campaign has raised $9,000 so far, he said, noting there are nine days left.
The proceeds will go to help veterans who are QC college students. Reagan has made presentations at several civic groups in the area this year, and Morrow happened to attend a Breakfast Optimist Club talk in Davenport a couple weeks ago.
“He was very touched by that and said he wanted to raise more money,” Reagan recalled, noting Morrow was good friends with his brother Bill, a power lifter who died from cancer.
“I enjoy doing it; it’s something our community needs,” Morrow said of doing feats of strength for charity. “That’s my way of doing it.”