Best of the Bronx: Austin Rodriguez

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A Bronx man marked a milestone birthday by making a miles-long journey to raise awareness about a cause close to his heart.

Austin Rodriguez is a member of the National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. When he turned 30 last Wednesday, instead of throwing a big party, he returned to his military roots.

For Austin's birthday he honored his fellow service members, who can no longer celebrate their own birthdays. With a 35-pound bag on his back, he and a friend set off on a 30-mile march from the Bronx to Manhattan.

This was inspired by another comrade they lost to suicide three years ago. It was also a journey to raise awareness about the prevalence of suicide among military members.

According to the Department of Defense, 541 active duty troops took their own lives last year alone, a record high.

"To see someone so strong suffer and go through with that and ultimately meet his end that way, it kind of puts you in a comparison of you know where you're at," said Rodriguez.

The men made it about 15 miles in 4 1/2 hours before the burden became too much to bear. Rodriguez's Facebook fundraiser raised about $130 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This also sparked a lot of comments asking him to bring back the walk next year.

"It's just a lot of determination and keeping your mind on the bigger picture of things to get through that event and it serves as a symbol for life. If life was a ruck march, don't worry about what you're feeling focus on your goal and get there," said Rodriguez.

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