Father raises awareness of veteran suicide after death of his son

FORT THOMAS, KY (FOX19) - Hundreds of American flags have been placed across the Tri-State in the past few months.

On Memorial Day, more than 600 flags waved at Tower Park.

But there's an important message behind the patriotic displays.

"Families, the empty chairs at tables," said Howard Berry. "The grieving process and the questions, the unanswered questions."

Howard Berry started the Flags for Forgotten Soldiers campaign after the death of his son, US Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Berry.

Joshua had just returned to the US from a tour in Afghanistan in 2009 when shots were fired at him during the attack at Fort Hood, Texas. He was then diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

"He was treated here at this Cincinnati VA and committed suicide in February 2013," said Howard.

Since then, Howard has been on a mission, erecting groups of flags wherever they will let him.

660 star spangled banners, to be exact.

"Each one of those flags represents a man or a woman that died by their own hand," said Berry.

A US Department of Veterans Affairs study in 2016 estimated that 22 veterans or soldiers kill themselves every day. That's 660 deaths in a 30 day month.

Josh Berry was one of them, but his dad says this isn't just about his son.

"It breaks my heart, it really does," said Howard. "To realize that over 7,000 are completing suicide every year and we've got to do a better job."

Howard says his goal by the end of the year is to have at least one Flags for Forgotten Soldiers display in every state.

He also wants someone to hold the VA and their treatment programs accountable, and better job opportunities available for those who are diagnosed with PTSD.

"These folks just fall through the cracks and I honestly believe that veterans should be the core of our community," said Howard. "They volunteered to defend our freedom and we're leaving these men and women behind."

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