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A conversation with US Marine Corps Veteran Jacob Schick, co-host of iHeart’s The Good Stuff podcast and CEO of One Tribe Foundation (formerly 22KILL), a nonprofit that combats suicide by empowering veterans, first responders, medical workers, and their families.
In 2012, the Veteran’s Administration released a report that found an average of 22 US veterans a day die by suicide. Schick started 22KILL, a social media campaign that became a nonprofit organization, to raise awareness of this staggering statistic. “We knew suicide was an epidemic among veterans,” says Schick. “I’ve buried friends again and again.”
The nonprofit rebranded as One Tribe Foundation, broadening its mission to include first responders like EMTs and firefighters, and frontline medical workers. One Tribe also moved beyond solely awareness to prevention. “As human beings, we all understand pain and suffering,” says Schick, who experienced his own challenges after being severely wounded while serving in Iraq. “We need to be more vocal and vulnerable in our struggles. PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. I’m very proud of the Tribe and our volunteers who work, even through their own pain, to make the world better.”
The Partnership: Page provides support to One Tribe Foundation through engagement, and has worked with a group of contractors pro bono to renovate its administrative offices and patient care spaces in Dallas. Page Senior Healthcare Planner Hilary Bales, 22Kill Leaders in Construction chair, helps plan and host an annual fundraising event that includes a clay shoot and cornhole tournament. “Last year, our fourth, we raised $137k from our event alone,” she says. “We bring members of the commercial real estate, construction, architecture, and engineering industries together to raise money to support One Tribe, to provide mental health and suicide prevention awareness, and to get our industry out of the ‘TOP 5’ industries for suicide rates.”
Three Things to Know about One Tribe’s Strategy to Reduce Suicide Rates:
1. Get the word out. One Tribe began when Schick and a handful of other Marines, business leaders, and POWs came together to figure out what could be done about the high rate of suicide among veterans. To increase awareness, they started the #22PushUpChallenge, which went viral after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted himself doing the challenge, resulting in an influx of funds.
2. Transition from awareness to action. One Tribe provides programs to empower veterans, first responders, and medical frontline workers and their families through traditional and non-traditional therapies, including Stay the Course, Tribal Council, Forge, Wind Therapy, WATCH, White Star Families, and more. Suicide prevention efforts require active, sustained interventions.
3. Realize that tragedy is part of the human condition. It’s all about how you respond to it and the support you receive. “There is power in unity,” says Schick. “This has been such a humbling journey. I’ve met so many people from so many walks of life. No matter who you are, at some point, you will get punched in the mouth by tragedy and trauma; we’re all on the same playing field. If we could lean in and love hard on that one fact alone, we’d be a much closer human race.”
A Deeper Dive
A third-generation combat veteran, Jacob Schick served in the US Marine Corps from 2001 to 2007, training in California before being sent to Iraq in 2004. “I had wanted to join the Marine Corps since I was 8,” he says. “My grandfather, who died a few years before I was born, fought in Iwo Jima, which was the springboard to me wanting to be a Marine.”
He signed up in the beginning of his senior year of high school under the delayed entry program, going to bootcamp in California just after 9/11. “We watched the South Tower get hit and knew we were going to war,” says Schick, who went on to infantry school and was selected to be first squad leader. “Regardless of how arduous it was, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.”
When his unit moved from providing security at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Sunni Triangle, a densely populated region of Iraq, “we knew we were going to see a lot of fighting.” In fact, the unit they were replacing was ambushed the week they were scheduled to go home.
One morning he and nine other Marines went out in two Humvees. “I had a bad feeling when we got the call,” he says. He took a bomb blanket and “told all the guys to button up, put on protective gear. When it’s 130 degrees in combat areas, you don’t need help being miserable. But I knew something wasn’t right. There was no chatter on the radio.”
Minutes later, they hit a triple-stacked landmine with their front left tire. “It was a big-ass bomb, a significant amount of explosive,” he says. Schick was blown 30 feet through the top of the Humvee. “I never lost consciousness. It took a Black Hawk 45 minutes to come for me because it was a hot landing zone. I was able to tell my Marines I was out of the fight so they had to fight for me, and how much I loved them.”
He was flown to a field hospital in Baghdad. “The gunny said he expected I was going to die,” Schick says. “I was bleeding through all my bandages, had shrapnel through my arm, burns, everything else was shattered or crushed: my right foot, left leg, left arm, multiple compound fractures, all ribs broken.” He was transferred to a military hospital in Germany to be stabilized, then home to the states where doctors “started trying to put my body back together.” Since, he has had more than 50 operations and 23 blood transfusions.
Once he was able to be mobile in the hospital, he visited fellow patients. “There’s a solace in connecting with the other wounded,” he says. Discussions ranged from deep and poignant to lighthearted bantering. “In my training, we never talked about living wounded, it was either live or die,” says Schick, whose right leg was amputated. “The only thing I didn’t know as a Marine was how to be a severely wounded Marine.”
The Bridge to One Tribe
“In the hospital is when I really started struggling with depression,” Schick says. “I went from being this physically capable, fit Marine to not being able to use the bathroom by myself. Who was I now?”
He saw other veterans struggling as well, some of whom didn’t make it through. “I buried 34 friends from suicide, so far. That number will go up.”
After Schick left the hospital, he began working at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas on the Warrior Training team. (The Center’s 62,000-square-foot Brain Performance Institute was designed by Page as a destination for those seeking to improve their brain health and enhance brain performance through applied research and training.)
“It was there I learned we actually don’t know much about the brain,” Schick says. Indeed, he was puzzled by many of his own thoughts and feelings. “I was trying to connect the dots to mitigate damage I was doing to my family and people who loved me. Everyone has a limit.”
With help and support, Schick began the long process of healing inside and out. “If I walk into a room with T-shirt and shorts, it’s apparent that I had a really bad day at work at some point,” he says. “But the most debilitating scars were on my soul.”
Schick began emphasizing self-care while remaining focused on helping veterans. As he learned about other first responders’ mental health challenges and high suicide rates, he felt compelled to include police, firefighters, paramedics/EMTs, and frontline medical workers in the organization’s efforts. 22Kill officially became One Tribe Foundation in 2020. “I like to ask, ‘Is this a lift-all-boats opportunity?” he says.
Now a father of two boys, 12-year-old Jackson and 7-year-old Jameson, Schick and his wife, Ashley, also host an iHeart podcast, “The Good Stuff,” produced by actor/filmmaker Bradley Cooper. Schick calls Cooper a friend, mentor, and supporter of the cause, and has made appearances in his movies “American Sniper,” “A Star is Born,” and “The Mule.”
From serving country to serving community, Schick always says, “Lean in and love hard. That’s how we’ll change the world. One Tribe, One Fight.”