Flags denoting the 660 veterans who take their own lives each month are now on display at the Greenfield Eagles lodge.
The flags, located at Eagles Aerie 1325 at 1275 N. Washington St. in Greenfield, are part of a Flags for Forgotten Soldiers project designed to bring attention to the ongoing tragedy by moving the display every so often to a different location.
According to the Eagles Facebook page, “Support Our Troops of Highland County, who oversees the Highland County Flags for Forgotten Soldiers display, is teaming up with Team A.B.A. Southern Ohio – Carry the Fallen and G3 to host the first Benefit Ruck March of 2018 — right here in Greenfield.”
The event is set for Saturday, May 5 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Eagles. The day will include a safety briefing, a 10 a.m. “step-off” to help prevent veterans suicides, an 11 a.m. group photo at the Greenfield Veterans Memorial, an 11:30 a.m. display set-up moving the flags to Travellers Rest at the Old Burying Grounds, a 12:30 p.m. Ruck March, and a 2 p.m. social gathering and cook-out at the Eagles.
Shawn Carter, team leader with Active Heroes, which puts on the Carry the Fallen events, said the May 5 event will be a “good opportunity for the community to come together” in support of veterans and the cause of preventing veteran suicides. Carter praised fellow Active Heroes team member Steve Witham for carrying the ball on the May 5 event in Greenfield.
“He’s really come on, I’m really proud of him,” said Carter.
In Highland County, the 660 flags were initially placed in August of last year on the front lawn at Southern State Community College in Hillsboro, in remembrance of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who take their own lives every month around the country. The display has since been displayed in Lynchburg and Leesburg before moving to Greenfield.
Becky Williams, intake counselor for the Highland County Veterans Services Commission and a volunteer for Support our Troops, told The Times-Gazette last August that organizers planned to move the flags to different locations around the county periodically to raise awareness of the issue.
Steph Roland, president of Support our Troops of Highland County, said at the time that 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 so far raised $7,589 of a more than $34,000 goal, 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.
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.