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Navy vet does 44,374 pushups and counting to help raise awareness about veteran suicide

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Posted at 11:32 PM, Jan 31, 2022

CINCINNATI — Since 2016, Steven Tessler has made it his mission to do 22 push-ups every day to raise awareness about the number veterans taking their life every day.

The decision comes from a 2013 viral challenge where people were tagged to perform pushups and tag another person. While the challenge is in the viral history books, Tessler continues as he is now over 44,000 push-ups.

"I'm just going to keep going," Tessler said.

Think about that number of push-ups for a second. The number 22 is derived from older data that showed 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Tessler's high achieving number is a grim reminder that since he started in 2016, 44,743 veterans presumably have taken their own life, if that data is accurate.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says data shows the number has dropped down closer to 17, but actual hard numbers are difficult to pin down as some deaths may not be designated as suicide.

"I'm just trying to help people suffering know there's a way out and they contact me or Mission 22," Tessler said.

Mission 22 is a nonprofit focused on serving those who've served with wellness programs all in an effort to cut down on the number of veteran suicides.

Steven Tessler has also taken on other missions. He started doing crunches for cancer which he has completed more than 1,700 days worth of those. Then there's what he calls Prayer Planks holding the position for one second per person on the prayer list which seems to have grown during the pandemic and the recent tornadoes in Kentucky. He and his wife perform the planks together and post the videos along with the crunches and push-ups on Tessler's Instagram.

There's no end in sight for Tessler, who retired from the Navy in 2007 after serving 20 years. He says his mission is a success even if what he's doing encourages just one veteran to get the help they need.

You can reach out to Mission22.com or the Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and press #1.

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can join the Homefront Facebook group, follow Craig McKee on Facebook and find more Homefront stories here.