Virginia Beach family travels across the country to bring awareness to veteran suicide

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Statistics show that every day, at least 22 veterans die by suicide.

On Jan. 19, a Virginia Beach woman’s husband became one of the 22 — but she is on a mission to not only help her family heal but prevent this type of pain for other families.

Tanya McNabb knows doing one push-up isn’t going to save a life, but she hopes doing the push-ups while sharing information about veteran suicide rates and prevention resources will. 

McNabb posted her first “22 push-ups each day for veterans” video this month, and the first name she recognized is her husband, Mark.

“He was the strongest person I knew and I thought I could help him and I tried, I tried to save him,” she explained.

On Jan. 19, after a long battle with PTSD and depression, Mark took his life.

Since then, she has started the 22 push-ups a day challenge with her children.

“He was an amazing dad and absolutely loved his children and he was the love of my life,” she said.

Tanya says his mental health after being in the military for years deteriorated.

“I ended up becoming his caregiver because it got so bad for him and unfortunately he lost his battle with his demons,” she said.

Monday marks six months and one day since his death and his 36th birthday. So, McNabb decided it was time to try and move on. The family packed up and are traveling across the country to spread his ashes and a message.

Involving her children is important to her.

“Teaching them respect with the reason we are doing this is too respect those that gave their lives for our country,” she said.

She said this has also been hard on her kids

“My daughter felt like it was her fault because she wasn’t a good enough kid, and my son, he just wants a dad. He’s so young. He doesn’t understand,” she explained, adding that even in the moments he died it would be hard.

“I just remember my first thought when they pronounced him dead that I just screamed at the top of my lungs that he is not going to be there to walk her down the aisle. That is where my mind went. Every little girl should have her daddy walk her down the aisle,” she said.

She says the push-ups are easy, but getting the message out especially during the pandemic is the hard work.

(Photo courtesy: McNabb family)

“I’m scared to death that numbers are going to go up because the isolation and not having advocates for them and I just want people to see that we love them, people love them and that if you know a veteran or you know an active duty member that is struggling just reach out,” she said.

But if it saves anyone the pain her family has felt, she says it’s worth it.

“Let them know they’re loved and not to follow through with it, ’cause I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through what we had to go through it’s a nightmare,” she said

They are making their way to Hawaii where they would like to spread his ashes.

McNabb says she thanks everyone for the support and hopes their message reaches the people who need it. 

If you need resources to help with suicide prevention click here or here specifically for veterans.

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