It’s estimated that 20 military veterans commit suicide every day, and Village of New Paltz trustees have spoken in support of recognizing and committing resources to addressing the problem. They heard from Kevin Hertell, creator of the “suicide awareness and remembrance” (SAR) flag, about how frustrated he’s been with the lack of media coverage, memorials and money to deal with the factors contributing to this high rate of suicide among veterans.
The SAR flag is evocative of the one commemorating prisoners of war, and the figure in profile on it is intended to be paying homage to that flag. The veteran’s profile is framed by a gold star, symbol of families who have lost someone to death due to military service, on a black background to represent mourning. Other elements call for support of the individual before it’s too late and the number of veterans who die by their own hand.
While veterans are often eligible for health care, it’s often limited to care for conditions that have been proven to be service related. That’s why protracted legal battles have been waged to secure care for certain Vietnam and Persian Gulf combat veterans, because the burden of proof lies with the soldier.
A handful of local veterans were present at last week’s Village Board meeting to hear the resolution passed by the board in support of Veteran Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Day and see Hertell present a flag to Mayor Tim Rogers, and when asked, roughly half of them had seen former comrades commit that most final of acts. The flag’s designer also brought photographs and stories from family members touched by suicide. His goals include having the SAR flag recognized as the POW one is, at the federal level, and to get help to veterans before it’s too late.