On 22 May 2016, Veterans Counseling Veterans and American Legion Post 5 in Tampa, FL held a special Memorial Service for family and friends who lost a veteran to suicide.
Veterans committing suicide is a National epidemic but it has a local solution. It requires a partnership within the entire community to effectively reduce suicide. Veterans Counseling Veterans INC and American Legion Post 5 held a special Veterans Memorial Service dedicated to the veterans who were lost to suicide on 22 May 2016. The 22nd was specifically chosen because of the number 22 was being used as the number a suicides completed by a veteran every day. The number 22 is currently in dispute but the number of suicides is still alarming high.
Several local community nonprofits, Veteran Service Organizations and the community attended the service including Bill Hamblin (15th District and Post 5 Commander, Vanessa Johnson (President of Blue Moon), Ch 1LT Amy Bartee (Mac Dill AFB), Tony Williams (President of Veterans Counseling President), Ch LT Larry Brant (USCG Clearwater), Greg Nicolosi (Bagpipes), Ronald Gironda (James A Haley VA Assistant Chief of Mental Health and Chief of Psychology), Mike Odell (President of Hillsborough Veterans Council and Vietnam Veterans of America, Tom Cruz (VCV’s Director for Suicide Prevention) and Chip Shields (Marine Association)
Family members and friends of veterans who completed suicide are often haunted by guilt that they should have seen or knew the warning signs. They blame themselves and often suffer in silence and self isolate themselves.
The active duty family members face harsher isolationism because quietly during the days after the service member completes suicide they are exiled from the military community. The moving vans come and erase any semblance of evidence that the service member and their family even existed.
Ellsworth “Tony” Williams, President/CEO for Veterans Counseling Veterans INC, American Legion member and retired Army Combat Veteran was masters of ceremony and provided opening remarks to start the service. His message was it takes the entire community to effectively decrease suicide.
H.B Plant High School AFROTC provide the Honor Guard for the service.
Bill Hamblin, American Legion 15th District and Post 5 Commander welcome all of the attendees to American Legion Post 5.
Tom Cruz, Veterans Counseling Veterans Director for Suicide Prevention introduced the guest speaker Ch, LT Brant and discussed the importance of the whole community involvement with suicide prevention.
Ch, LT Brant was the guest speaker.
Ch LT Brant is the Command Chaplain for the USCG in Clearwater. Florida. Ch LT Brant is train the trainer certified in Applied Suicide and Intervention Skill Training (ASIST) and trains units all over the Country in ASIST. Ch LT Brant suggested instead of the term “warning signs” we should use the term “invitation signs”. This simple change of terms can make suicide prevention less intimidating and help us learn when a service member is in distress and this is how they ask for help.
Ch LT Amy Bartee, newly assigned chaplain to the 6AMC/HQ, Mac Dill AFB gave the invocation.
The service ended with Greg Nicolosi playing TAPs and Amazing grace on his bagpipes.
In closing the service provided family members and friends of veterans who completed suicide a chance to remember both the good and the bad and feel safe that no one would judge them nor blame them. Our motto was “You are not Forgotten!