To bring awareness to suicide in the military and first responder communities, a Woodbridge man is swimming 220 miles – from the Pentagon down to Norfolk.
Bobby Powell, a 21-year retired Navy rescue swimmer, began his project last year, swimming 17 miles in the Potomac River from Tim’s Rivershore in Dumfries to Fairview Beach.
“Trying to save lives by preventing suicide is just carrying on with my own – I guess my own quest in life,” said Powell.
Powell is upping the ante this year with his 220-mile swim, which he will begin on June 3.
“[The distance] kind of coordinates with the 22 veterans a day on average that commit suicide…by doing the swim that I’m about to do on June 3…my hope is to bring more attention to the issues. And I’m well enough aware that I can’t prevent suicide – I’m not a psychologist – but I do care. And it disturbs me when there’s other folks out there that do take their own life…if they know that somebody cares, if we can bring more attention to the issue overall…then maybe we can save one person,” said Powell.
Powell has his own set of challenges when it comes to completing the swim, as a diabetic with a titanium rod in his arm. He began training back in January and is now swimming three miles a day, five to six times a week at One Life Fitness in Woodbridge.
He is working with the Fitch Foundation as part of his mission, an organization that assists veterans.
“They’re an all military, all generation, any disability veteran service organization. The goal there is to get veterans off the couch and back into some sort of an activity,” said Powell.
The swim will begin at the Pentagon Lagoon down to Mount Vernon, which is a 14-mile stretch. Then Powell will head down to Tim’s Rivershore, continuing down the Potomac River until he reaches the Chesapeake Bay. Powell is expecting the journey to take a total of around 15 swim days.
Powell is trying to raise some funds for his expenses for the swim, but one thing he definitely needs help with is boat support on his journey.
“I need some boat support. My goal is to have at least one vessel each day that I’m swimming. That vessel will be there in case I get in trouble for safety, and that’s first and foremost,” said Powell.