Surviving Navy SEAL spouse PAVES the way for more military mental health support

Surviving Navy SEAL spouse PAVES the way for more military mental health support

After losing her husband, Sara Wilkinson is on a mission to stop suicides among military members. She knows that the threat is no longer just overseas.

“The epidemic of veterans suicide, in my opinion, is our current war,” she said.

Sara’s husband, Chad, was a talented operator and decorated Navy SEAL.

“Things that make them incredible, things that make them amazing at their job — the fact that they’re stoic, and loyal, and brave, and selfless, are the exact things that can lead to their demise,” she said.

Approaching 21 years of active duty service, Chad died by suicide in 2018. Two years later, Sara, the now-Gold Star Spouse partnered with GORUCK to hold the .

It’s held on Veterans Day and meant to honor Chad’s memory as well as his passion for summiting’s the world’s largest peaks.

“He climbed Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya,” Sara recalled. “He would do 1,000 step ups on a 20-inch box with a 45-pound pack, to train to climb mountains and thus the ‘’ was born.”

Now Sara’s taking it a step further and partnering with , a nonprofit that provides equine assisted therapies and mental health counseling to service members.

Kayla Arestivo, Co-Founder & President said, “there’s no report back to command, there’s no paper trail and 100% of services are sponsored.”

On Friday from 5 – 8 p.m. at the , the groups will come together to host the

P.A.V.E. stands for “Providing Access for Veterans Engagement.”

This gym on campus will be turned into an expo, allowing service members and their families to ask questions and meet the different support organizations in attendance.

“We need to be an umbrella and come together and so the coalition is just that — it’s everybody saying, we all care about the same thing,” said Arestivo.

When people are finished talking with the organizations, they’re invited and encouraged to walk along the paths and just enjoy the property.

“There’s a wonderful walkway here, we’ll have a bounce house, we’ll have some food trucks. It’ll be, hopefully, a beautiful evening for your family,” said Arestivo.

P.A.V.E. The Way Coalition is providing a lighthearted environment that could lead to lifesaving information.

“Just because you’re here doesn’t mean you’re struggling. Our true hope is that you’re not [struggling]. Our true hope is just to build knowledge, build awareness, and build support,” said Wilkinson.

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