The Veteran community of southern New Jersey came together to call attention to joint efforts to end Veteran suicide July 13 outside of the Veterans Affairs Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Northfield, N.J.
The joint event backdropped by the display of the Flags of Forgotten Soldiers which is meant to serve as a visual reminder of those who we lost to suicide. For the last 30 days, 600 flags have flown at the site of the event to memorialize the approximately 20 Veterans whose lives end daily across the nation because of suicide.
“Our purpose for creating these displays is to inspire someone to reach out and help a Veteran in need,” stated John Demarco of the Knights of Columbus of South New Jersey.
U.S. Congressman Jeff Van Drew attended the event and let those in attendance know what Veteran suicide prevention means to him, “Every time there is a moment of silence I truly think about the sacrifice our Veterans make, I think about the spouses and what they go through when their Veteran comes home and how they worry about them, and how sometimes they don’t get the services, the help or the love they need.”
Local Veteran Service Organizations and the Wilmington VA Medical Center Outreach team were on hand to provide suicide prevention resources.
Members of Keep Our Veterans Alive (KOVA), a community-based Veteran coalition, attended the event. KOVA provides tools and coordinates resources to organizations to raise awareness, train and educate the community to combat Veteran suicide and save lives.
Bob Looby, a Veteran and KOVA member, talked about the great partnership with the Wilmington VA, “We’re your clients and you walk the talk, and we know you are a great expert supplier to our Veterans. Because it’s going to be the VA that will be the educators and the Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) who will get it done in the field.”
Matt Jacobs, VA Community Engagement and Partnership Coordinator encouraged everyone to use the #BeThere, “Be there for Veterans, be there for their families, and simply be there in their time of need. We want to be there before the crisis providing services, providing jobs, providing houses and providing resources that are so needed.”
Jacobs called on everyone in attendance to help with areas that need improvement; identifying service members, Veterans, and their families, promoting connectedness and improving care, and increase lethal means safety.
Kim Butler, Associate Director of Operations for the Wilmington VA Medical Center, spoke on the need for spreading the message of suicide prevention to the Veterans and members in attendance.
“Each of you here already know this message, but you need to multiply that out into the world, everyone knows someone who needs help” Butler said.
She stated that Wilmington VA is also focused on expanding access to health care, ending Veteran homelessness and fighting food insecurity and substance abuse. The Wilmington VA Homeless Program has set up mobile food pantries, virtual landlord fairs and continue to check in homeless Veterans. Improvement in substance abuse disorder treatment has been funded and work has started to be put into place as well as the funding for the new Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Center which will be completed in 2023.
Veteran Crisis Line
If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran in crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that Veterans, their families, and their friends can access every day at any time. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net or text to 838255. Trained responders — some of them Veterans themselves — are ready to listen, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.