Vets lost to suicide remembered on National Mall

WASHINGTON, D.C. – 1,892 flags blow in the wind under the United States Capitol. Each one represents a veteran who took their own life this year.

From every direction on the National Mall, the sacrifice that comes from war is marked.

“I thought about committing suicide,” said veteran Nicholas Cook. “Luckily, my wife, my kids were there to save me from myself, and I got help.”

Cook served in Iraq in, what he calls, “a rough go.” Most of the soldiers he led, received Purple Hearts.

“If it wasn’t for my support system,” Cook said, “I don’t know what would have happened. There are thousands of soldiers out there that don’t have help.”

Planting the flags was just one part of the mission to raise awareness about veteran suicides. Volunteers also lobbied dozens of lawmakers.

They’re asking Congress to pass the SAVE Act – The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act. It is legislation designed to stop and prevent suicide.

Tom Tarantino, with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, lead the charge on Capitol Hill.

“There aren’t enough mental health providers, not enough access, and the programs that we have in place to help people who are desperate enough to die by suicide, there is no evaluation,” Tarantino said. “We don’t know if any of them are really working.”

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) is a former psychiatrist, who specialized in PTSD. He knows how serious this problem is, so he’s starting a commission to look into the question of how to deal with bringing troops home.

“I was a draftee. Everybody was involved,” McDermott said. “Now we got this one little group and we hand them a gun and send them off to war and then we act like we don’t have any more responsibility – but we do.”

Each flag marks a life – not lost in war, but in the effects of war. And even with 22 veteran suicides every day, Cook said, he still has hope.

“I hope that those flags will just make people take a second,” Cook said. “And see that they can help veterans by encouraging them to see the help they need.”

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