The suicide rate among United States veterans continues to increase, and John Cena wants to do something about it.
The 2019 National Prevention Annual Report showed that the number of veterans that committed suicide in 2017, the most recent year with available data, grew from the previous year.
Veterans Day represents an opportunity to thank those who have served and continue to serve the United States, but John Cena wants to take his efforts to help a step further.
“The numbers are alarming, and this is a very difficult conversation,” said Cena. “We have messed up. It’s time to make things right. And there is no perfect answer, but I’m more than willing to try.”
Cena has partnered with the FitOps Foundation, a nonprofit committed to training and certifying veterans as personal trainers.
“I was hit pretty hard by the hard data about veterans committing suicide,” said Cena. “These are people I look up to and respect, and to learn that nearly 20 veterans a day are killing themselves, that means the system is lacking in some way. It’s not a flattering conversation, but it needs to be out in the open so we can address the issue.”
“When I was hit with that information, especially concerning vets aged 30 and younger killing themselves, my immediate goal was to help,” Cena continued. “For me, it’s important to let the people in the armed services know they stand above politics. They demand my respect. They’re my heroes, and that’s why I’m taking action with FitOps.”
FitOps runs camps for its training sessions, providing a recognizable feeling for the veterans that attend. In addition to raising awareness about the needs of vets, Cena is also raising funds to expand the FitOps program.
“I was upset that I wasn’t doing all that I could to help, so I started using my presence to send this message out,” said Cena. “Then I went to the FitOps camp to try to impact one person. And I still didn’t think I was doing enough, so now I’m using my resources.”
In a fundraising effort for FitOps, Cena has pledged to match all donations up to $1 million through Veterans Day, as well as offer a VIP meet-and-greet with Cena to one lucky donor. Fittingly, on Veterans Day, the project crossed the $1 million threshold.
“That is the goal, and I’m sending messages to all the channels I can to express to veterans, in a very vulnerable way, how much admiration and respect I have for the tremendous sacrifices they’ve made,” said Cena. “We’re going to hit two million bucks. Lord & Taylor, GNC, those are two companies stepping up, and those are the resources we need to orchestrate change. It’s an authentic cause to make that number 20 go to 19 and then 18, and eventually all the way down to zero.”
An integral part of FitOps is rebuilding the sense of community and purpose that many veterans lose when returning to civilian life.
“I can vaguely relate with my own experience away from WWE,” said Cena. “I’m so grateful to be doing some amazing things right now, but I still miss WWE and still ask myself, ‘Who am I?’ when I am not active with WWE. My identity was so closely tied to WWE for so long.
“So, even if it’s apples to oranges, I can understand that sense of fraternity in the military. That’s why I am so passionate about FitOps. It’s a way to remind veterans that they are valuable, that they have a purpose. And they have that community. That is really important in our battle against that number 20, doing everything we can to bring it lower.”
No matter where he is in the world or which project he has immersed himself in, Cena is never too far from the WWE. He laughed when he was informed that Randy Orton challenged him, via Instagram, to a match at WrestleMania 36.
“I wasn’t even aware of that,” said Cena. “I never make the matches, I’m just grateful to be able to perform in WWE. Every day away from it, I miss it more and more and more. I’m becoming more honest with myself about how much I miss it. I’m very eager to get back into a WWE ring soon.
“And on the subject of WrestleMania, I can tell you this—I haven’t missed a WrestleMania since my first appearance at WrestleMania 19, and I do not plan to miss a WrestleMania for decades to come.”
But a return to WWE will have to wait. Cena is currently promoting his new “Playing with Fire” movie, and he is also dedicated to spreading awareness and raising funds for our veterans.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for the women and men in uniforms,” said Cena. “I was heavily influenced by the military as a young boy, which started as a symbol of strength. When I became an adolescent, I dug deeper into the code of the military, and I grew such an appreciation for the honor, candor, passion, and respect. I’ve tried to build my whole life around those pillars.”
Cena is now taking another step to show his appreciation for the troops by getting involved directly.
“It doesn’t matter which side of the party line you fall on,” said Cena. ”We need to have a universal respect for those who made the oath to make the ultimate sacrifice. I have a great sense of gratitude for the women and men in uniform, and I want to work to ensure that FitOps continues to add purpose and meaning to the lives of veterans.”
Veterans need support in many ways, but Cena’s current project represents a step in the right direction.
“Veterans Day is extremely important for me,” said Cena. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for any and all who have ever donned the uniform and defended our unalienable rights. There is something truly heroic about that, and veterans everywhere—not just on Veterans Day, but every day—should remember they have value, remember that they have a definable purpose, and should remember that they are amazing individuals, unlike any other that walk the land.”