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Monday, May 29, 2017

Tower Park Flag Display Represents Veteran Suicides

A flag display in Tower Park will remain for three weeks to honor veterans and soldiers who have committed suicide. It is estimated that there are 660 veteran suicides per month. FTM file.
A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study has estimated that roughly 22 veterans or soldiers commit suicide a day. In 30 days, that is 660. That number of flags line the hillside in Tower Park this Memorial Day, representing each man or woman that took his or her own life.

This past Friday, Howard Berry and a group of friends spent the afternoon putting up the display. Berry is the father of U.S. Staff Sergeant Josh Berry who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a survivor of the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Josh died by his own hand in 2013.

The display was put up Friday afternoon. FTM file
Berry says the flags aren't just about Josh.

"He's just one of the flags. Each flag represents a man or a woman that died by their own hand, Berry said.

The public at large is not gonna be aware of there's a bunch of flags, that looks nice, but when you see 660 flags which is 22 times 30, it kinda gets your attention."
660 flags line the hillside to represent each veteran that commits suicide in a month. FTM file

Since Josh's death, Berry says he has had a lot of questions for leaders in Washington D.C. as well as for people at the VA hospital. He has become more aware of a lot of young men and women who have been dying by their own hand

"I've decided to honor these forgotten soldiers. By forgotten, I mean their best thinking was to end their lives. They fell through the cracks - each and every one of them. Whatever the reason, they couldn't get the care they needed, and they all wore a uniform at some point.
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Ultimately, I believe if we increase the public awareness to the veteran suicide crisis, that will transform into increased contributions for programs that are working but are currently under- funded. If we can close the cracks up, maybe we can save a life or two. That's what is so important to me.

Berry has set up displays on a Mt. Adams hillside, at the Crescent Springs Community Park, in Centerville, Ohio and outside the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. His goal is to set up a display in each of the 50 states to honor these "forgotten soldiers" in hopes of getting better care for the veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues.

Woody Barnes, Josh's former psychologist, came out Friday to lend a hand. Barnes had seen an article written about the Mt. Adams display, not aware that it had anything to do with his former patient. He got in touch with Berry and decided to help.

Howard Berry and Woody Barnes hold a photo of Staff Sgt. Joshua Berry who committed suicide in 2013. FTM file
"He (Berry) is a man with a cause; He is driven because he lost his only son, Barnes said.

Now I am going to help  as much as I can with these flags. I think it's nice to have it here in Ft. Thomas, and I hope people come out and look at this and get the message."

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