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Snohomish teen runs with American flag to prevent veteran suicides

Tyee Eliason runs two to three miles a day carrying the American flag to prevent veteran suicides.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — 13-year-old Tyee Eliason calls himself a Freedom Runner. He runs two to three miles almost every day, carrying the American flag.

It started as a simple act of patriotism when he was just 6, but recently things got much more serious.

Major Justin Fitch saw one of Tyee's patriotic posts on Facebook. Then the two became friends.

The Army veteran was dying of colon cancer, and at the same time working to stop veteran suicides. Before he passed, Major Fitch asked Tyee to pick up that torch by carrying the flag.

RELATED: Dupont Veteran walks over 3,000 miles to raise awareness of veteran suicide and PTSD

Approximately 22 American veterans die by suicide every day.

"This is his mission that he can't carry on any longer," said Tyee. "He needs somebody to do this for him." 

Tyee is doing just that.

He ran some 500 miles this summer alone spreading his message of hope.

But this is about more than just raising awareness.

Tyee said during one of his runs a man stopped him and told him he'd heard about the teen's mission. The man shared some of his own struggles with Tyee and told the boy that seeing him run with the flag made him think twice about suicide.   

"He saw the message I was trying to get out there and he changed his ways," Tyee said. "It makes me feel like I'm really making a difference."

Tyee plans to continue spreading that message as far as his feet will take him. 

"I want our veterans to know that if they have these feelings of not wanting to live in this world anymore, there are people out there who care for them and support them."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Help specifically for veterans can be found here.

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