Six hundred and sixty flags have been fluttering in the wind along U.S. 62 north of Hillsboro since Wednesday evening, remembering the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who take their own lives every month around the country.
Volunteers with Support Our Troops of Highland County put the flags up Wednesday evening on the front lawn at Southern State Community College, and the display is scheduled to be moved every 30 days.
Becky Williams, intake counselor for the Highland County Veterans Services Commission and a volunteer for Support our Troops, told The Times-Gazette that organizers plan to move the flags to different locations around the county periodically to raise awareness of the issue.
“We’re trying to move it every 30 days to different areas in the county… So maybe Greenfield next month, or Mowrystown next month, just so the whole county can get the word out,” Williams said.
Steph Roland, president of Support our Troops of Highland County, said the idea for the display came from Flags for Forgotten Soldiers, an initiative begun by Howard Berry after his son, Staff Sgt. Joshua Berry, a veteran, committed suicide in 2013 following a lengthy battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the initiative’s GoFundMe page, which has raised $5,289 of a more than $34,000 goal in the past four months, an estimated 660 veterans commit suicide every month due to post-traumatic stress disorder and a lack of support from communities and government.
The funds go toward purchasing flag displays for veterans service organizations around the country in an effort to raise awareness and prevent further suicides.
Roland said the Highland County display was funded by donations from the PFC Zachary R. Gullett Memorial Fund and Peggy Carter of Lexington, Ky.
According to Roland, any leftover funds will be donated back to the GoFundMe campaign.
Alex Butler, who helped set up the display with other volunteers Wednesday evening, encouraged people to stop by and see the flags.
“I would just encourage members of the community to go see the display, take a moment and consider the tremendous privileges we all have, and the freedoms and liberties we have because of those who have served,” said Butler.
Flags for Forgotten Soldiers can be found on Facebook. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/flags-for-forgotten-soldiers.
The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, or by text at 838255.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.