This Veterans Day, one ceremony in Tooele focused on a troubling reality of the veteran experience: suicide.
Several hundred community members gathered at the Tooele Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday for the unveiling of a tall, bronze sculpture. It depicts a World War II soldier carrying a flag and a rifle.
“In the Vietnam war we lost 58,220 troops to combat. Since that time of those same troops we’ve lost 170,000 suicide,” said Jon Gossett, president of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, a suicide prevention organization. “It’s gotta stop.”
The sculpture was created by Sandy artist Dan Snarr. Organizers said the new bronze sculpture, titled “Proud”, was commissioned to bring attention and awareness to veteran suicide. They said it’s the first in the nation dedicated to this issue.
Veteran suicide is especially pronounced in Tooele County, home of the local National Guard Armory, the Tooele Army Depot and the defense training area, Dugway Proving Ground, Gossett said. His foundation runs a crisis line for those considering suicide and hosts monthly support groups at the local hospital and Tooele County Health Department.
“The things that they’ve had to endure and the things that they’ve gone through, I don’t think any of us could fathom,” Gossett said. “They see stuff that I’m sure would cause depression. I’m sure it would cause anxiety. So we need to look out for those things. We need to make sure we’re there for them.”
Among veterans there’s still a sense that many non-veterans don’t appreciate what they’ve been through and done for the country. Ted Young served in the Air Force for 22 years. He became a board member of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation after having a son and several friends die by suicide.
“A lot of people thank us for our service but a lot of people don’t really know what we had to do to make it home,” Young said. “The goal for us is to get home and then when we get back we’re not sure where our place is.”