Florence ‘Witness Tree’ event brings awareness to veteran suicide
FLORENCE, Ky. (WXIX) - The city of Florence is teaming up with a local church to raise awareness for veteran suicide in the days leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Located at the Boone County Veteran Memorial is the Witness Tree.
Every November, the community comes together to hang dog tags on it to represent the 22 veterans who take their lives each day.
“We were seeing in the 20 years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a very, very disturbing rise in the rate of suicide,” said Reverend Dr. Susan Ward Diamond with the Florence Christian Church.
The event started in Pennsylvania before expanding to other states in recent years.
It consists of daily ceremonies lasting about 15 minutes leading up to Veterans Day.
Each ceremony opens with readings from a speaker, highlighting the hidden challenges that veterans face every day.
At the end of the 11 days, 222 dog tags will hang in honor of lost veterans, but those being impacted are much larger.
Veteran suicides went from nearly 28% in 2001 to 42% in 2020, according to the Veterans Health Administration.
That is why the Florence community says it is important to continue to bring awareness and let our troops know that they’re not alone.
“In listening to their stories and not saying, ‘I understand,’ but being able to just be there with them is incredibly important, and the healing that comes with that,” explained Rev. Ward Diamond. “We don’t try to tell them anything other than being with them, and there’s something very powerful about that.”
Visitors are invited to attend and hang military dog tags on the tree during the daily ceremonies.
There will also be an event happening this Saturday at 2 p.m. in honor of Veterans Day.
If you or someone you know is struggling, there is a lifeline that is available 24 hours a day. Just dial 988.
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