WASHINGTON (August 24, 2017) – On September 1, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is hosting a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery to honor veterans, members of the military and first responders we have lost to suicide. This ceremony is being held in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Week September 10-16. Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs last year found that the risk of suicide for veterans is 21 percent higher when compared to civilian adults. From 2001 to 2014, as the civilian suicide rate rose about 23.3 percent, the rate of suicide among veterans jumped more than 32 percent.
“This is an important opportunity to recognize and honor all the men and women, past and present, who served in our military and have died by suicide,” said Robert Gebbia, AFSP CEO. “We are hopeful that by honoring those we’ve lost, we will shed light on the issue and inspire others to talk about mental health and reach out when they are in need of help. This reaching out takes courage – courage we know these men and women possess.”
This is the first time a suicide prevention organization is hosting a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Ceremony participants include:
- Steve Siple – AFSP National Board Chair
- Karrie Leigh Boswell – Chair, Fairfax Walk
- Richard R. Bowers, Jr. – Fire Chief, Fairfax VA
- Raymond Burke – AFSP volunteer, advocate and survivor
Media are invited to attend the event at Arlington National Cemetery and must RSVP: https://afsp.wufoo.com/forms/arlington-national-cemetery-guest-response-form/
“Changing a culture and the way we think about mental health takes time,” said participant Richard Bowers, Fairfax Fire Chief. “It’s not like switching direction on a speedboat – it’s more like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier.”
AFSP volunteer, and retired firefighter, Leigh Boswell was staffing a table to share resources about suicide prevention at Patriot Harley-Davidson, during Rolling Thunder. During her shift, a man she was talking with divulged to her that he is the commander of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. He encouraged her to apply on behalf of AFSP.
As a retired firefighter, suicide prevention is something Boswell values very highly. Last April, a fire fighter in Fairfax County died by suicide. When this happened, Boswell reached out to the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She got connected with the AFSP Out of the Darkness Community Walk as the walk chair, and in her first year helped raise $150,000 for the cause. The year’s walk is being held at 11 a.m. on September 16 in Fairfax, VA. The public is invited to attend.
For information about this walk, visit: https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=4891
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.