Planting seeds for veteran suicide awareness

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - More than 30,000 members of the military have died from suicide since the 9-11 attacks, according to data from the U.S. Government.

The Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle prepare thousands of flowers at Rockford’s Main and Auburn roundabout to show military members they care- planting seeds of awareness for those who feel forgotten.

A crowd is expected to gather Saturday at roundabout in Rockford, to spend the day planting flowers in honor of those who served their country.

Organizers Ernie and Helen Redfern say this will be the fourth year for the event.

“What prompted us to do this was veterans suicide. Back in 2019 it was the news topic; and although you don’t hear about it anymore, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s still of crisis,” Ernie Redfern told 23 News.

The memorial does more than look pretty. It sends a message of hope. This year, one of the flower beds will spell out a very important number.

“Now we have a national number, that begins July of this year, that’s 9-8-8. The veterans, anyone, can dial 9-8-8 and it goes straight to a crisis line; a suicide prevention crisis line,” Vicki Clark said, a suicide prevention coordinator for Rockford’s office of Veterans Affairs.

The Redfern’s say some of those suicides are the result of little recognition. They say our military members are deployed to fight for a cause but receive little appreciation when they come home.

“We want this to be a conversation starter. The more we talk about this, the more awareness will be raised,” Helen Redfern said.

The City of Rockford will close the inner lane of the roundabout from 8:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday for safety purposes.

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