Article by Ambre Adams

Each year in November, record numbers of fans travel far and wide to attend a rivalry that spans decades. The Alabama Crimson Tide and The Auburn Tigers retake the field for another great Iron Bowl game where the turnout will echo for decades to come. This year’s game took place in Tuscaloosa. As many traveled to The Capstone by car, plane, or bus, a group with a meaningful impact and purpose journeyed 151 miles by foot.

On the morning of November 26, 2022, Operation Iron Ruck began their expedition from Auburn, Alabama, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In tow, the game ball. Student Veterans from both institutions gather to take a journey across the state to raise awareness of Veteran suicide. An issue that, in 2019, impacted an average of 17.2 Veterans per day.

University of Alabama School of Social Work student Brandon Guisinger participated in his first Iron Ruck march this year. He was joining the march not only for all Veterans, but for his brother Christopher Guisinger who enlisted in the Army in August of 2018 and sadly passed at the age of 23. In an interview with SEC Sports, Brandon spoke on the impact this loss has had on him and how he has been able to work through those feelings with the help of therapy.

Unfortunately, Brandon’s story is the same for many family members living with the loss of a veteran. Operation Iron Ruck’s goal is to set aside the rivalry between the Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers to increase awareness of veteran suicide, while providing a safe place where other veterans may speak and receive support. Along with the game ball, each participant in the march also carried donated materials that were delivered to Bill Nichols State Veterans Home, Mission 22, Tuskegee Veterans Assisted Living Centers, and Three Hots and a Cot.

For the Tide and Tigers delivering the game ball is important, but along with that, these Veterans also look to deliver hope.