Many people may have seen U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Trevor Derr, 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight chief, carrying an American flag while running at Ramstein Air Base, but they may not know the reason behind it.
Derr’s motivation is his friend, Daniel, who he served with at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. in the early 2000s. A permanent change of station moved Derr away, but the two Airmen remained close friends and in contact throughout the years.
Daniel struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can develop after undergoing a traumatic event, and unfortunately took his own life at 30 years old.
“In 2015, I found out that he had been battling things that he had to deal with from deployments and life events back home,” Derr said. “He was seeking help. From what I recall his mom telling me, it just got to a point where he just couldn’t deal with it all.”
Originally, Derr began running as a New Year’s resolution to run 1,000 miles in a year in 2018. He later changed his focus and now runs as much as he can to spread awareness of PTSD and veteran suicide.
“I’m just going to run as much as I can for Daniel and try to raise awareness,” he said. “I don’t have a huge platform. All I have is me. I feel that the only way I can do that is to just get out and run, carry that flag, and honor him and the fallen. I run to keep his and others’ memories alive.”
Derr has had others from his unit join him on his runs and occasionally has cars honk or people shouting as they pass by, which he said motivates him, but wants others to know him running is more about the cause than it is for him.
Right now, suicide and mental health across the military is an important topic. Derr said mental health is one of the most important things to take care of. According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, 580 military members ended their own lives in 2020.
“[Suicide] is something that occurs way too many times,” he said. “I wanted to try and bring as much awareness as I can, but also do what I can to let people know there are people out there that care and want to help.”
Please visit the resources below for information regarding mental health:
Mental Health Resources for the Military Community • Military OneSource
Mental Health Clinic: 06371-46-2390
Behavioral Health Optimization Program: 06371-46-1459
Northside Chapel: 06371-47-6148
Southside Chapel: 06371-47-5753
If you or a veteran you know is in crisis, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line, from the U.S. dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 (if calling from Europe dial 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118); chat online at www.veterancrisisline.net; or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.