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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

'Sergeant Pushup' Stops In North Texas To Raise Awareness of Kids' Mental Health

Patrick Parker doing pushups
Syeda Hasan
Retired army veteran Patrick Parker completes 3,069 in each city he visits to raise awareness of bullying and mental illness among children.

A retired army veteran is traveling the country, completing thousands of pushups to raise awareness of bullying and mental illness among children. 

Patrick Parker, better known as Sergeant Pushup stopped in DeSoto this week.

A note to readers — this story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

At the Grow DeSoto Market Place on East Belt Line Drive Friday, Parker's silver dog tags jingled as he cranked out pushups. Parker planned to complete more than 3,000 by the end of the day. He set that goal to bring awareness to a statistic he read about the number of young people who attempt suicide each year. 

"Children go through a lot, so these pushups bring character,” Parker said. “Eventually I'm going to do something soon where I’m going to have the children do the pushups with Sergeant Pushup.”

Parker's pushup marathons started as an effort to raise money for a food bank in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. As the buzz around Sergeant Pushup grew, Parker heard from kids struggling with suicidal thoughts. Some described being victims of bullying, which Parker said he faced in school. He hopes the pushups can help victimized kids build courage to fight their battles. 

“If you can do a pushup, and if someone is bothering you, you'll have the strength to push that person off of you and to get to the help that you need," Parker said. 

After visiting North Texas, Parker plans to head to California. Eventually, he hopes to do 3,069 pushups in all 50 U.S. states.