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Nassau police recruits complete push-up challenge to honor vets

Nassau County police recruits participate in a 22-push-up

Nassau County police recruits participate in a 22-push-up challenge at the Nassau Police Academy in Massapequa Park Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, to bring attention to the plight of military veterans. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Emmanuel Anglade, a Marine Corps veteran, dropped to the ground and powered through 22 push-ups with his fellow Nassau County police recruits early Thursday.

They did the workout for a good cause — not for its rigor.

The 22-push-up challenge is the newest social media craze — much like the Ice Bucket challenge of two summers ago — to honor veterans, heighten awareness of the approximately 22 American veterans who commit suicide daily, and educate the public on mental health.

A Dallas-based veteran empowerment group, 22KILL, spearheaded the year-old effort. Anglade was one of 168 recruits who took on physical challenge at Nassau County Police Academy in Massapequa Park.

“Down,” yelled Officer Jason Sepulveda, 43, assigned to the police academy’s Physical Training and Defensive Tactics Unit.

“One, sir,” the recruits shouted back in cadence, working their way up to 22.

“As a veteran . . . it’s great to see that we’re doing something positive about it,” Anglade, 38, a Brooklyn native, said of the goal of bringing attention to the plight of veterans.

Anglade, of Huntington Station, retired from the Marine Corps in 2015 as a gunnery sergeant after nearly 19 years. He served eight tours, including four combat tours — three to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.

During one tour in Afghanistan, he learned that a Marine who had PTSD committed suicide several months after coming home. And in 2012, a buddy and another fellow Marine Anglade served with in Afghanistan committed a murder-suicide, he said.

“He was a really good guy,” Anglade said of his fallen friend, who he declined to name. “One of the scariest things about PTSD is you can’t look at somebody and tell if they have it or not.”

Jacob Schick, 22KILL’s executive director, said in a phone interview that people have gravitated to the challenge because they support veterans and the cause.

“Mental health is not just a warrior issue, it’s a societal issue,” said Schick, a third-generation Marine who was severely wounded in Iraq in 2004.

The organization asks people to do the 22-push up challenge and post a video with the hashtag #22KILL. The goal is to get videos of 22 million pushups posted on social media.

Nassau Police spokesman Det. Lt. Rich LeBrun said the force is challenging other departments to take part in the effort.

Recruit Mike Torre, 35, a reservist in the Air National Guard who served 13 years in the Air Force as a flight engineer on C-130s, said it touched him to see his fellow recruits doing the push-ups together.

“It felt like being back in the military . . . you push yourself harder so that your fellow teammates don’t have to,” said Torre, 35, of Wantagh.

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