Over the weekend, Fayette County had its first-ever “Silent Watch Veteran Suicide Awareness” event and as it was so successful, the event may be happening again next year.
The watch was hosted by the Fayette County Veterans Service Commission (VSC) with the help of the local VFW Riders Post 3762.
“I don’t think we had any complaints. Everything I have heard back from everyone was really positive feedback,” said VSC Director and County Veterans Service Officer Amy Jackson.
During the Watch, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., there were at least two people standing beside a casket in silence at all times a the county courthouse. Those people were swapped out with other volunteers approximately every 20 minutes.
Summers Funeral Home and Roberts Funeral Home helped with the casket, according to Jackson. There were borrowed combat boots placed before the coffin as a visual representation of the veterans that commit suicide on average.
As previously reported, according to Jackson, the average daily suicide rate was 22 veterans per day, but that average is believed to have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Entities other than VSC and VFW Riders that assisted with the event included the Fayette County Honor Guard, cadets from Greenfield schools (similar to ROTC), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and Chillicothe VA.
During the Watch, those entities helped with ceremonious activities including a flag folding, the playing of “Amazing Grace,” and the playing of Taps. Information and outreach were provided by the VA and by VSC.
“I just feel like everyone came together. It took a lot of people to pull this together, but I think we were able to do that. I am thankful,” said Jackson.
Over 200 people were estimated to have been involved between the various entities, those who stopped by throughout the event, and those who volunteered to be part of the Watch to stand beside the casket.
“It is touching because, when you are a veteran, a lot of us know someone that was really close to someone that committed suicide, or we may have another veteran friend who has thought about suicide. It’s something that touches our hearts,” explained Jackson.
She further explained that a lot of the time, veterans and their family members do not know where to reach out to for help. Those who are having trouble with thoughts of suicide, or know of someone who is, are asked to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
“I appreciate how the community came together and the other veterans came together in the community to help us put on this event, because it’s really special, and it weighs heavily on my heart,” said Jackson. “I’ve lost some of my veterans to suicide. It’s really tough.”
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.