Social media has been riddled with it’s share of challenges such as the Harlem Shake Challenge in 2013 and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. This year is no different with many people taking part in the 22-Pushup Challenge.
1st Sgt. Marc Dibernardo, the first sergeant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Broncos, 25th Infantry Division, was challenged by his brigade command sergeant major to take on this challenge which involves doing 22 pushups a day for 22 days to promote suicide prevention and awareness in the veteran community.
“Honestly, I rarely do these types of challenges anymore. However, this one struck home,” Dibernardo explained. “You see, I know where these guys are or have been. I have been there myself. I tried to handle it on my own thinking that I was strong enough, but I wasn't.”
This personal connection drove him to challenge himself to do more than just 22 pushups for 22 days. The result was something significantly more.
“I spoke with my wife and we both came up with a 48,400 meter row. We took 22 and multiplied it by 22. Of course, it came out to 484, so I added a few zeros to it,” he said.
Rowing this massive distance would be challenging enough in its own right but Dibernardo decided to add another significant element to the challenge; he would row the entire distance wearing a M-50 Protective Mask, more commonly known as a gas mask, live-streamed on Facebook.
“You see, the row is challenging by itself, sort of like life. We all deal with our share of highs and lows,” he said. “Imagine doing that with PTSD or depression. It starts to slowly restrict you; it makes you feel like you can't even breath. So, the mask does just that. It signifies going through life with that extra stuff holding you back.”
Dibernardo further explained the mask saying, “Think about those who suffer with pain, depression, loneliness, PTSD, etcetera. It literally can suffocate them. So much so to where they take their own life. The mask was that symbol.”
As a company first sergeant, Dibernardo has a role in every Soldier in his formation’s life and anytime behavioral health issues arise it hits him on a personal level due to his knack for getting to know everyone on a personal level to some degree.
“Suicide is real. It doesn't discriminate. It has zero boundaries,” he said. “Don't always assume you can point out the signs of depression or PTSD. Know that there are so many resources out there but the most powerful resource is you. You don't have to do this alone. Oh yea, and one more thing, just because were in the military doesn't mean it's weak if you ask for help. If it is, then I guess that I'm weak.”
September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness month and this event served as the official kick off for the Broncos. During the live-stream viewers were encouraged to share resources they know, or even have utilized themselves, that can assist Soldiers and veterans who are struggling with increased stress or possibly contemplating hurting themselves.