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The sun shines on Ironman

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

The IRONMAN competition, a true testament of will and dedication of those who aim to complete it, is the ultimate test of physical endurance, stamina and discipline. A swim, cycling portion and full marathon make up the 140.6-mile gauntlet.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Hull, the NCO in charge of the Minot Air Force Base Honor Guard here recently accepted the challenge to compete at the IRONMAN Sept. 21, in Lake Tahoe, California.

"A triathlon like this is a once in a lifetime, life-changing event," Hull said. "The athletic components are a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run."

Having already competed in a half IRONMAN, four full marathons and 15 half marathons, Hull trains every day, between 15 to 20 hours a week, preparing to test his physical and mental strength at an elevation of 6,200 ft.

However, Hull will not be alone in the race; he will be competing with support from the Andy Hull Sunshine Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes suicide awareness and prevention.

Andrew Hull was Hull's 16-year-old brother. In December 2012, Andrew died by suicide.

An avid baseball player, nicknamed "Sunshine," Andy was a left-handed pitcher under the constant watch of college and professional scouts, and was guaranteed to go far with his athletic ability and enthusiasm for life.

"Andy was an awesome kid," Hull said about his younger brother. "He had everything going for him.

"With suicide, you take your own life, but you may not understand how many people you affect." Hull said. "My little brother, one person, affected so many people.

"My parents could have re-acted either one of two ways," Hull said. "Had they reacted negatively, it would have affected so many of his friends who spent the month after the incident crying, laughing and remembering Andy with my parents."

Instead, Hull's parents took a more positive approach to the loss of their son. Still in grieving, Hull's parents established the Andy Hull Sunshine Foundation to raise awareness and remember their son, with a "You Matter" approach.

Hull explained how his mother has been on the news, radio shows and out in public speaking to local school districts to promote suicide awareness and helping kids understand suicide is not an answer to any problem.

With support for the foundation growing, the Andy Hull Sunshine Foundation has sponsored scholarships, fundraisers and baseball tournaments across Arizona.

"We're raising awareness, and trying to give back to the kids," Hull said. "We want them to understand that suicide is not the way to go."

Hull explained that competing in the IRONMAN is his way of remembering, celebrating and grieving for his brother, and that the foundation is a reflection of Andy. Having already raised $8,500 through donations and sponsorships, Hull continues to raise awareness.

Using the foundation’s slogan,"You Matter," Hull takes it upon himself to let those around him understand how important they are; especially his Airmen.

"’You Matter,’ is something I say to every single one of my troops," Hull said. "So what if you don't matter to this person? You matter to your sister, your mother, your friends, your supervisor and your chief. There is always somebody that you matter to."