BUCYRUS — A somber event organized to bring attention to the number of suicides committed by veterans and soldiers was held Sunday in the front of the Crawford County Courthouse in Bucyrus.
Michele Hawks, with assistance from retired Air Force Master Sergeant Tim Chandler, organized A Silent Watch to bring awareness to the ever growing number of suicides.
“The current statistic is 22 veterans or soldiers commit suicide each day,” Hawks said. “Depending where you read, it’s 22-25. That’s not including the number of accidental overdoses. So there is a fine line there whether it was on purpose or accidental.”
Hawks noted September has become Suicide Prevention Month and she worked with Chandler who had A Silent Watch in Ashland.
“This is just to raise awareness that this is an epidemic and it is happening,” she said. “In 2008, my brother came home from a deployment in June, and on Oct. 28, 2008 he took his life. He was just home for four months. That’s how I became in involved.
“When I moved to Ohio with my husband we met up with (Chandler) and he said we should do this Silent Watch,” she said. “We did it for two years in Mansfield and we stood outside the courthouse in front of a casket and we stood for 15 minute increments. At that time it is was 18 (suicides) a day…not 22.
“And then life just happened. I got busy, so we took time off,” Hawks added. “At the end of the summer this year, Tim came to me and said we should get it started again because the numbers aren’t going down, they’re increasing. It’s a real issue and it doesn’t take a ton of effort. We needed to get the awareness out there.”
She said Chandler attempted to get all 88 Ohio counties involved and have their own Silent Watch. Hawks said Chandler contacted all 88 Veteran Services Organizations and he heard back from about half of them. About a quarter of them were going to hold their own watch.
“The word is getting out. On Sunday we put up 22 pictures of soldiers who have committed suicide and we had a flag and a yellow rose next to each one just to have a visual that this many are committing suicide.”
The Silent Watch was held at the Veterans Memorial in front of the county courthouse with a donated casket.
“From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. there was always someone standing watch in silence guarding the casket,” Hawks added. “Suicide is such a taboo subject, whether it’s a civilian or a veteran. A lot of veterans think it’s a sign of weakness. If you say you’re feeling a certain way, or having suicidal thoughts you’re sometimes looked down on and many times are told to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on.’
”I don’t think many people realize it’s such a big deal.”
Hawks said they have a Facebook page that will announce upcoming events, statistics and resources. She said the page is called “Silent Watch, Veterans Suicide Awareness.” Here us a link to the page.
“Like it and follow it and when we have an upcoming event or information we’ll list it there,” she said.