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How a Marine in Colorado hopes to use his facial hair to connect veterans with jobs

Aaron Mund hopes his razor will do more than just remove his long-time facial hair and help cut down on the number of veteran suicides.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo — The number of suicides by the people who fight to defend the United States is on the rise.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show the average number of veteran suicides per day was nearly 17 in 2020. About 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year, according to the VA, and veterans are 57 percent more at risk for suicide than non-military adults.

Struggles to find work after life in the military is a big factor in the number of veteran suicides.  A study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 53 percent of veterans are unemployed for four months or longer after the military.

"My first job was working retail at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., folding tank tops before Christmas," said Aaron Mund, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. "That's not what I was trained for and it felt like my skills were being put to waste."

In an effort to help current and future veterans avoid his same struggle, Mund made a plan to raise money for an organization designed specifically to help veterans transition smoothly into civilian life - Colorado Veterans Project.

"If we can really focus on that time period spent during transition and make sure it’s successful, a lot of the military members don’t fall into the holes that lead to other darker things after their military careers," Colorado Veterans Project Board President Todd Youngblood said.

The organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which means they rely heavily on donations to support their work.

That's where Mund's passion and effort entered the picture. He wanted to help create meaningful change through a superficial one.

"I’m not just going to shave this [beard] off for any old reason," Mund said.

Credit: Aaron Mund

Similar to how No-Shave November raises awareness and money for resources to prevent prostate cancer, Mund wanted to use his facial hair to help veterans - by getting rid of it. He decided to call his fundraiser "Make Me Shave November."

So, after eight consistent years of life with a beard, Mund decided if he raised enough money, he'd say goodbye to the beard and welcome a new chapter with a smooth face.

"In the military, you have to shave every single day," Mund said. "You’re supposed to shave even when you’re on leave – have it shaved off. And so when you get out it’s kind of like, 'I had to shave all this time so now I’m not.'"

Mund initially set a goal of $1,000 but quickly exceeded it. Honoring his commitment, he picked up the razor and got to work.

"I don't know who I am," he said as looked in the mirror at his freshly-shaved face.

He was curious if his wife or toddler son wouldn't recognize him either since neither had ever seen him without his facial hair.

"I once asked my wife before we got married if she wanted to see me clean-shaven," Mund said. "She said no."

Though Mund already shaved, he's hoping to continue his fundraising efforts for Colorado Veterans Project.

Anyone who would like to contribute to Mund's fundraiser can donate on his GoFundMe page.

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