Chet Bennetts knows the visible scars war can leave.

The Marine staff sergeant spent several terrifying days in November 2004 fighting among the lead American forces trying to force Iraqi insurgents out of Fallujah.

He was hit multiple times by mortar shells and improvised explosive devices. Other Marines in his unit were killed.

“You get up, and if you're not visibly wounded, you keep going,” he said.

Bennetts survived the battle, one of the bloodiest of the war in Iraq, and got home to Lincoln in March 2005.

But after three of his Marine friends committed suicide back home, he learned some scars can't be seen. They suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects people who survive terrible ordeals. Some have flashbacks and nightmares.

“It's having some pretty drastic effects on some guys and gals,” Bennetts said.

He, too, suffers from PTSD and has a traumatic brain injury as a result of injuries in Fallujah.

Bennetts said many military service members don't seek help for mental illness because they believe others have it worse. He wants others to understand the devastating effects mental illness and brain injuries can have on veterans.

On Monday, he and friends Chris Rikli and Jeff Harter walked 22 miles to several Lincoln cemeteries carrying an American flag on a windy day with windchills holding in the teens.

Bennetts said he organized the walk to raise awareness of suicide rates among military servicemen and women.

According to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are about 22 veteran suicides in the United States each day.

Bennetts and two friends, who aren't veterans, started their day at Memorial Stadium and then headed south to Antelope Park to take part in the annual Veterans Day ceremony. Then, they walked south to Lincoln Memorial Park before heading back to College View Cemetery at 70th Street and Pioneers Boulevard.

As the sun set, they made their way to Wyuka Cemetery and then headed downtown.

Drivers honked and waved as they saw the trio hiking, and the three men waved back.

“Hopefully, it makes them think,” Rikli said.

Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

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I'm a Journal Star night editor and father of five.

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