AUSTIN (KXAN) (WVLA) — Jacob Schick, a Marine combat veteran, will take the field for the coin toss before the match-up between Louisiana State University and University of Texas-Austin today.
Schick is Texas resident and amputee who served in Iraq in 2004. While on active duty, his vehicle hit a mine and the explosion left him severely injured.
“I did 18 months in the hospital. I had over 50 operations [and] over 20 blood transfusions,” Schick explained. “But the worst of it was being diagnosed with post traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury because those are the wounds you can’t see.”
Surviving the ordeal led him to create a nonprofit organization, 22KILL. The name may shock football fans when they hear it announced, but Schick said that’s the point.
“22KILL was started essentially as a movement,” Schick told KXAN, “after a 2012 study from the VA came out saying, on average, 22 veterans die by suicide every day.”
Through his nonprofit, Schick said he works to provide programming and build a community for those who are struggling.
“I have personally lost 30 friends to suicide, and eight have been killed in combat. I’m actually a third generation combat Marine,” Schick said. “It’s important that people understand that [suicide is] not just a warrior issue or a first responder or a law enforcement officer issue. We deal in human issues. We just happen to help humans that wore the uniform in one form or the other.”
He added there’s no better way to spread that message than at one of the biggest games of the year.
“It’s a great opportunity to get the word out and let people know that it’s okay to not be okay,” Schick said. “Lean in and love hard and rely on your tribe. It gets better.”
KXAN’s Will Dupree contributed to this story.