‘Flags for Forgotten Soldiers’ draws attention to suicide among veterans


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Volunteers plant 660 flags in front of the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island to represent the number of military veteran suicides that occur each month.

SENIOR LIFE R. Norman Moody

 

In a field in front of the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center, stand 660 small American flags planted in the ground.

The “Flags for Forgotten Soldiers” represent the number of American military veterans who commit suicide each month. An average of 22 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder take their own lives each day.

Started by Howard Berry of Cincinnati, whose son staff Sgt. Joshua Berry died by suicide in 2013, “Flags for Forgotten Soldiers” is spreading across the nation. The idea to bring it to Brevard County was from Robin Kiepert of Merritt Island, whose son Army Specialist Terrence “Terry” O’Hearn died at his own hands
Feb, 5, 2016.

Kiepert was joined by Viera High JROTC cadets, representatives of Space Coast Honor Flight, Cape Canaveral Ladies, Brevard County Property Appraiser Dana Blickley, her husband Brian, employees from her office and others to plant the flags. The flags will remain for 30 days, until Dec. 19.

Kiepert said it is to honor her son and all those veterans who served, then died at their own hands. She said that while her son suffered from PTSD his family did all they knew to help him.

“We didn’t know where to go,” she said. “We didn’t know who to ask. We knew Terry was angry, and we thought he was angry
at us.”

Then Blickley, whose son Jared Blickley will soon leave for officer training school in the Air Force, said troops leave to serve without any guarantee they will return.

“We support the families,” Dana Blickley said. “Here Terry’s sacrifice will be remembered. His loss will save lives.”

Kiepert said she wants other families to know that they need to educate themselves about PTSD. She wants to draw awareness so other families won’t suffer the tragedy her family has endured.

Keipert said the Department of Veterans Affairs generally won’t share findings with families because of medical privacy laws, which often leaves families without knowing how to help a loved one.

Her daughter, Megan McIvor, said people need to know that there is help. They just need to know how to find those organizations that can
help them.

Some families that have been through the same are often willing to share information. Veterans organizations also may be of help in referring
a family.

“We want people to know that they are not alone,” McIvor said. “There are so many agencies out there.”