My journey to the 23rd pushup began on March 15, 2015, the day my soul mate, Steve Tarpinian, took his own life.
Steve was an extraordinary man and positively impacted so many lives in the sport of triathlon which he pioneered on Long Island. Although, one did not have to be an athlete for Steve to make a lasting impression. The way he was able to make people feel good about themselves and Steve’s uncanny ability to make people believe they were the most important person in the world when he was talking to them were unforgettable. His kind spirit and good nature was apparent to all who met him. I did not want Steve to be forgotten and I wanted his legacy to continue so I wrote his memoir. In an attempt to try and have some good come out of such a tragic loss, I wanted to donate proceeds of the memoir to an organization that promoted mental health and suicide awareness. I named Project9line.org as the beneficiary of the book proceeds.
Project9line is a Long Island non-profit organization of veterans helping other veterans deal with depression and PTSD by providing outlets for them in the arts (writing, music, comedy etc.). Steve, being the Renaissance Man he was would have loved that approach. It was through Project9line that I was introduced to Airborne Tri Team (airbornetriteam.org). Airborne Tri Team’s mission is to promote teamwork and endurance sports to help veterans “… better their life style, change their attitude towards life and give them a purpose”.
It is through Airborne Tri Team that I learned of the staggering statistic that an average of 22 veterans are killed by suicide every day. The #22pushup challenge is similar to the ALS ice bucket challenge in its attempt to raise awareness of this plight of our veterans. More about this challenge can be found at:
Ron, the founder of Airborne Tri Team, was inspired by Steve’s life. Now, when the team participates in a triathlon, they will gather together when all of them have crossed the finish line and do 22 pushups to honor those who serve and to raise awareness for veteran suicide prevention through education and empowerment. Then they will do the 23rd pushup in Steve’s memory.
Steve was not a veteran, however, even though the paths that lead our veterans to suicide are different than Steve’s, they shared the pain of hopelessness and they feared living more than they feared dying. The end results of suicide are the same, the tragic, sudden loss of a precious life and the loved ones that are left behind, feeling the terrible heartbreak of loss, with so many unanswered questions, wondering if they could have done something different to help their loved one.