WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – He’s a runner. And he’s on a mission. He’s running the Prairie Fire marathon Sunday, and he’s dedicating his personal run to veterans everywhere.
Dean Rhein runs to prevent suicide.
“I think it’s just the pain and blame. It’s easy to go that way and medications only do so much,” says Rhein, a former military man. “And when you’re feeling down and you didn’t go on a run or something to clear your head you start thinking and your mind starts thinking. And then the little… everything pretty much triggers everything.”
Rhein has been deployed and served in several areas of the Army for ten years. Now he says thoughts of suicide creep in every now and again.
He says part of those thoughts include the blame he puts on himself. He faced some tough times while deployed.
“We were knee-deep up in it so that brings pain to me today because I feel responsible,” says Rhein. “I feel I brought my guys into that stuff even though that was our job. But still you always start blaming yourself. So I put them in that situation… even though we were all in that situation.”
Rhein says he’s now on a mission. Not just for himself, but for others. Sure, he says, he struggles with thoughts of suicide. That’s part of the reason he runs.
But it’s not self-centered. He runs to bring awareness.
He’s one of the Local Joes. And he runs for buddy-check 22, to bring awareness to veterans who die of suicides.
He wants his fight to be very public. It’s day-to-day.
“This has been a tough year. I don’t know if I’ll get a P-R this Sunday but I’m going to do my best. I know I’ll finish even if I have to crawl. So I will finish that marathon,” says Rhein.
He’s most interested in people listening about the struggles others have, not his own. As a member of Buddy Check 22, he reaches out to other veterans. He says sometimes suicide prevention works, and other times it does not.
He says he doesn’t want to be dramatic. He says he passionate about helping others. Especially Buddy Check 22.
“But still it changes one day to another you know, it’s just reaching out,” says Rhein. “On the 22nd there is a roll call, so you reach out. Everybody has to report in. If nobody reports in then it’s your job to track them down to report in. So the running community in Wichita is so great. It doesn’t replace my soldiers, my family, but nobody looks down at anybody and everybody comes together.”
Rhein recalls a time recently when he was running. He was feeling down, and one of the running groups he was in, picked him up again.
“Hasn’t been as good this year. So when the bad things happen it’s hard to reel yourself back in. The runners have reeled me back in. I did a video of training pikes peak run, training in Kingman. I did eight (miles) and then I ran out of water and things were going bad. I was going to make 22 (miles) just because. But then some other (runners) ladies got in trouble themselves. They ran out of water, and I was off to help them. I had to put myself on hold to go help them so they saved me that day.”
Rhein says helping others is therapeutic.
“The running community, they pulled me back in, got me thinking straight,” says Rhein. “I got to my car, hauled butt to go pick them up. They needed some help. But it was… they really helped… when they needed help.”
Rhein says he will keep running. For others and for himself.
“I run. It’s not perfect, and I’d like to say one day I won’t be fighting this fight, but I’m a realist,” says Rhein. “It’s one day at a time. And I always say, today’s going to be a good day.”
Rhein isn’t sure he will get a personal best at the Prairie Fire marathon this year. But he’s running for awareness.
The Prairie Fire will begin Sunday at 7:30 a.m.
Dean Rhein will also be in Derby on the October 22. He’s running and walking the Veteran Suicide Awareness 22 Hour Walk, Run & Ruck Fundraiser. It’s at The Coffee House in Derby starting at noon.