Memorial honors veterans lost to suicide
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As we continue to reflect on the significance of Veterans Day, a dedication ceremony took place Wednesday in Madras for the new Veterans Healing Memorial.
The ceremony at the Jefferson County Community Center honored veterans of all military branches and ages, including those who served in conflicts past and present.
Event organizers said the underlying message of the new memorial is to shed light on veterans whose lives were lost to suicide, as well as those who continue to struggle with mental health issues each day.
NewsChannel 21 spoke Wednesday with Shawn Stanfill, the project coordinator, and Johnathan Courtney, chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
Stanfill said it's the first memorial of its kind in Central Oregon. Among the names engraved on one of the benches is Cpl. Jessica A. Ellis of Bend, who died in Iraq in 2008.
“Its mission is to leave no man behind,” Stanfill said. “We have a suicide rate of one every 65 minutes. That’s 22 a day.”
Courtney fought in the Iraq War. Now, he offers mental health services for fellow veterans.
“When soldiers come back from Iraq, we have our mental health issues, and things we will never, ever unsee,” Courtney said. “This is a safe place where veterans can come and seek out help so that way they are not alone in this process.”
Wednesday's special tribute included the lighting of the first fire in a pit at the memorial. It was lit at 2:22 p.m. to signify the estimated 22 American veterans who take their own lives each day.
The memorial is intended to provide people with an opportunity to honor and reflect upon the heroic sacrifices of local veterans.