Military vet to Roll Around the Clock for 24 hours in suicide prevention fundraiser
After a 22-year career in the British armed forces, Damian 'Obi Wan' Todd understands individual struggle, both physical and psychological. He’s experienced them himself as well as witnessed friends and fellow warriors do battle with often invisible challenges.
Just as important, Wan isn’t ashamed to talk about those struggles, even the mental ones, and he’s trying to do something to help others as well. The retired military member and now consultant and philanthropist is in the midst of training for his latest major fundraising effort – Roll Around the Clock – where he will spar in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 24-straight hours on February 22 in his new home of Australia, to raise money for R U OK, a suicide prevention organization.
“It’s rife, it’s everywhere,” Wan tells the author, speaking of mental health challenges like depression and suicide, among military veterans and general populations. “Some of these guys are absolute, genuine warriors, but even they can’t deal or they get to the point where they can’t deal with it. I’m very fortunate to still be here. Every day I have to find a reason to live. People find reasons to live, and we all need to find goals in life. If there’s nothing to do, nothing to achieve, the struggles are even harder.
“One of my best friends, Marcus – we called him 'Buff', he was a gentle giant, and he took his own life. He messaged me the night before, before I went to bed. We spoke, he changed his profile picture to one of a dove, then he hung himself. It was such a waste. I wish I had continued the conversation or done whatever else I could have maybe done. I thought there was no indication of that he was really going to do what he did.”
Wan is using what haunts him as fuel to help others in any way he can. The people, old friends as well as brand new ones, who have contacted him since his 24-hour rollathon fundraiser was announced sharing their stories drives the veteran through what is an arduous training camp.
“There are soldiers out there as well as so many hundreds of other people who, without mentioning names, have told me about how they’ve lost loved ones to suicide – their parents, best friends, two of their friends. I’ve been gobsmacked by it all, sobbed at some of the messages from all around the world I’ve received. Pick a country,” he says.
“Those are the things that motivate you to keep going. At the end of any week I will have trained 15-18 hours of BJJ. That’s almost like a half-time job, but I don’t care. Eventually, this will end. That pain will end. All this stuff, being battered in the gym, then the day of the fundraiser, rolling with 192 people over the course of a whole day will be horrific. I’ll have cramps, be dehydrated, be cold, get hot, get sick, all these things. It’s going to be damn hot. We have no AC in the gym. But I’m loving that. I just want to inspire people to know that even when you think there is nowhere else to go, that you will get through it. And, if you can’t, it’s ok to say ‘hey, I want help.’”
Wan continues to deal with serious injuries, including ones that he says have left him without much feeling in some of his limbs. Chances are, the doctors who once warned him against continued BJJ training for fear of paralysis don’t love the idea of his rolling nearly continuously for 24 straight hours, but the warrior knows how lucky he is to have what he does.
“I’m not the very toughest guy out there, but I’ve always found a way and I’m not ashamed to talk about my struggles. Now, to get to a point will I have injuries but I still have all my limbs, I’m very grateful,” he explains. “I don’t feel them very well, but I can still do it. A lot of amputees do this, guys who served and guys who never served. Trauma comes in all sorts of ways and people don’t have to suffer in silence.”
In the end, Wan wants to show solidarity with those suffering from often invisible pain who may feel they’re alone. They’re not, he says, and it’s important that all of us support organizations that provide resources to people suffering from depression, and who are at risk for suicide in any way that we can, small or large.
“I don’t need people to donate $1,000,” he elaborates. “If I can get 50,000 people to each donate two dollars, we’ll get there. This is going worldwide.”
The grueling training he’s in the midst of to prepare for his 24 hours of sparring has not shown Wan how strong he is. In fact, it seems to have been further illustration to him how we all struggle, no matter how tough we are, and that we can all get through our battles if we help one another, and he is willing to use himself as an example.
“When one of your brothers is falling down, lend them a hand,” he ends. “There’s always an end to that. But don’t let the thing, don’t ever let it be the end to this. Death, regardless of your faith, there’s an absolute finality to it. We only have so much time on earth, I want everyone to enjoy it, to embrace it. Things get really hard. In recent weeks I still get upset sometimes, and I don’t mind admitting it. I don’t care what you think is weak. I don’t care. I’m a human being.”
To be a part of Roll Around the Clock, visit https://ruokchallengeevent.everydayhero.com/au/roll-around-the-clock, or visit https://www.facebook.com/events/257190008281573/
About the author:
Elias Cepeda writes a regular column for The UG Feed; you can find Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda.