TOWN OF WALLKILL – Every day an average of 22 active duty or retired servicemen and women take their own lives and State Senator Jennifer Metzger (D, Rosendale) is calling attention to the tragedies with the introduction of legislation designating September 22 each year as Veteran Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Day.
Metzger and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D, Forestburg) announced the measure on Friday before a packed house of veterans at the American Legion Post 151 Hall in the Town of Wallkill. Both said there needs to be more exposure to the issue that has been called an epidemic.
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserves who returned this summer after a deployment in Iraq, said the issue must not be swept under the rug.
“When we have heroin overdoses I get calls from parents Saturday night. ‘Can you fudge or tell them not to say how my son or daughter or loved one died?’ I get it, we need to talk about it and it starts with awareness and that is why I think it is so critical that what you are doing right now; that’s how we get through this,” Neuhaus said.
Kevin Hertell, an Air Force veteran, whose family has suffered from suicide, founded Honor the Fallen, to remember those who struggled with the illness that resulted in their deaths.
Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R, Deerpark), who attended the event Friday, said afterwards that “Remembrance and creating awareness for this unfortunate epidemic is crucial.”