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Stand the Watch event honors veterans lost to suicide, brings awareness in Biloxi

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - One volunteer after another stood the watch at Biloxi Lighthouse Park on Thursday.

Each spending 15 minutes next to a flag-draped coffin in a symbolic gesture remembering those veterans who have committed suicide.

“On bended knees and heavy hearts, we just wanted to show our appreciation and honor them that’s passed on,” said Harrison County Supervisor Kent Jones. “Just think about the fact that we have 22 veterans a day that commit suicide is very saddening. Those numbers are constantly going up.”

Stand the Watch is the first ceremony of its kind for Veterans Suicide Awareness month by Harrison County Veterans Services. It was organized by Julia Encalade.

“Veterans are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide, who have done a deployment, compared to regular civilians,” she said. “So, we need to keep that in mind and it’s up to all of us as a community to serve our veterans and to love them.”

Of the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide, 14 were not affiliated with the VA.

And officials wanted this ceremony to help make veterans who are suffering, that there is help available.

Kevin Cuttill with Crusaders for Veterans said there is good reason why veterans face mental health challenges.

“Veterans go through a brain-change,” he said. “They go through a traumatic experience from the start of boot camp. ... So, during their whole time of their military career, they are a changed individual. So, when they come back out to the civilian world, it’s not easy to adapt.”

The ceremonies were assisted by the Biloxi High School Junior ROTC. For them, it was an outreach that turned into a lesson.

“Some of them, unfortunately, have lost parents, brothers, sisters - myself included - to suicide,” said retired Master Sgt. Karen Chachere, the aerospace science instructor for Biloxi High School Air Force Junior ROTC. “And there’s no more powerful statement that can be made. Take a look at these kids. That’s who’s left behind to pick up the pieces.”

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