The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs released a report last year stating that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
That number hit home for Marine Sgt. Daniel Egbert and Army Sgt. Matt King; both of whom served in Iraq. The two set out on a 22-day road trip from Los Angeles to Ground Zero in New York, producing a documentary focused on raising awareness about veteran suicide.
That documentary is "Project 22."
The filmmakers interviewed doctors, psychologists and veterans across the country to learn about the treatment options available for struggling veterans and their families. The crew filmed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York and spent four days filming in Pittsburgh thanks to the help of Marine veteran and Duquesne University law student Theo Collins.
“They were just going to do a straight shot from D.C. to New York City where the film eventually ended at Ground Zero,” he said, “but they, after my persuasion and sharing of everything that’s available here for them to see, they did alter their route by several hundred miles.”
Collins first met Egbert in 2010 when the two were deployed to Afghanistan. Hearing about Egbert’s project, Collins said Pittsburgh had to be a part of the film.
While in Pittsburgh, the crew met with Duquesne psychology professor Roger Brooke, Al Mercer of the Veterans Leadership Program in South Side and former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier, who recovered from combat injuries sustained in Vietnam and went on to play in the Steelers first four Super Bowl victories.
Collins said the large number of veterans living in Pittsburgh made the city a must-see for the filmmakers.
“Pittsburgh is really unique in that there’s such a high concentration of veterans residing here in the city,” he said, “and as a result of that there’s a lot a support and a lot of resources available.”
There are roughly 230,000 living in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, according to Michele Margittai, director of development and community relations at the Veterans Leadership Program in South Side. She also said that Pennsylvania has the 4th highest concentration of veterans in the country.
The official trailer for the film was released Thursday and Collins is hoping the 2 minute and 30 second video will go viral.
“If we can get people to get interested in what it is that we’re doing and then share it, that’s how we’re going to reach these veterans that are out there and the families of these veterans that are out there that are struggling with these issues,” he said.
The film will be released this summer with East Coast and West Coast screenings, as well as in Pittsburgh.