Veterans and active duty Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines pack the hall of the small VFW post 3631 located in Aurora Colorado. A brass bell fashioned from a WW2 battleship shell casing takes to the stage. The bell is rung 22 times, piercing through the silence like a bullet it echoes through the hall. Signifying the 22 Veteran suicides that occur daily, this has became a ritual at VFW 3631 every 22nd of the month. This is Veteran suicide awareness day.
It was only a little over a year ago that the owner of this VFW hall, Mr. Gary Anguilm, was reading an article that stated 22 Veterans were dying each day by suicide. That’s when he decided that as Veterans they ought to do something about that. This was when VFW 3631 began their monthly ritual to raise suicide awareness.
Fallen Veteran Bell: YouTube
According to recent VA studies, the average rate at which Veterans are committing suicide is down to 20 per day. That number is still too high. One fallen patriot is too many. They have sworn to keep this tradition on the 22’nd of each month until the number reaches zero. As such, VFW 3631 is calling upon other VFW posts and all Veterans alike to help spread awareness of suicide!
Anguilm is a Vietnam Marine Corps Veteran and served two tours in the infantry. He pays close attention to detail when organizing this event. At 5 p.m. the socializing begins and guests are met with burgers, fries, and hot dogs (which are free for all Veterans). He sees this as a way to honor the guests and also to draw a crowd for the evening. At 6 p.m. everything stops. Everyone stands from their seats for the National Anthem. A Naval officer takes center stage and strikes the bell 22 times to remember the fallen Veterans of the day. 7 p.m. the hall fills with the sound of old rock ad roll, the guests dance and laugh, having a great time – they share their war and sea stories. New friendships grow, and the bond between the fellow patriots grows.
VFW Post 3631 : YouTube
What they are doing is a powerful move in the right direction and I believe that with enough support behind them and from more VFW halls can begin doing the same thing we have a real chance at lowering these statistics. If you believe someone is thinking of committing suicide, just ask them. “Are you thinking of killing yourself”. Contrary to what many believe – this will not make the person more likely to commit suicide, and could actually save their life.
If you have thoughts of suicide or if you know someone who is, please call the crisis number.
If you are a military service member, Veteran or know one in crisis please reach out to the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 to speak with a responder who understands the military. Many of them are Veterans themselves.
Please help spread this amazing story and the awareness that it brings.
Author - David Mann Title Photo Credit - Beverly & Pack (license)