Veterans March to Combat Suicide

photo of men marching and holding flags and a man standing in front holding a football

The rivalry between The University of Alabama and Auburn University is one of the most well-known rivalries in college sports throughout the nation. These two highly competitive teams come together for a chance to see who will win the Iron Bowl, but students from each side also come together for a unique tradition: Operation Iron Ruck.

Operation Iron Ruck is designed to raise awareness for veteran suicides. UA’s student organization Crimson Legion and Auburn’s Student VeteranStudents walk together with flags and backpacks in camoflauge.‘s Association hike from Tuscaloosa to Auburn, or vice-versa depending on where the game is hosted each year. The stress of three-day hike between Tuscaloosa and Auburn represents the stress veterans face after their time in service. Each hiker also carries 17 pounds of material on the hike to symbolize the 17 veterans who die by suicide each day.

Brad Campbell, the assistant director of the Department of Veteran and Military Affairs at UA, is a veteran and former participant in Operation Iron Ruck. When asked what Operation Iron Ruck meant to him, he said:

“I was fortunate to participate in the first Operation Iron Ruck. . . what stands out to me when participating is how the rivalry takes a backseat to the bond between veterans.”

This year the UA team will march and wear buttons in honor of Hunter Whitley. This year’s Operation Iron Ruck concludes on the morning of the Iron Bowl after the hikers arrive at Bryant-Denny Stadium. To learn more about Operation Iron Ruck or Veteran and Military Affairs visit

photo of a man from behind as he wears a backpack. a small american flag and a rubber chicken are poking out of the bag