The Veteran community of southern New Jersey came together on July 13 to end Veteran suicide.

The joint event included the display of the Flags of Forgotten Soldiers, which serves as a visual reminder of those we’ve lost to suicide. For the last 30 days, 600 flags have flown at the site of the event to memorialize the Veterans we’ve lost because of suicide.

Man speaks at Veteran suicide event

Matt Jacobs speaks at Veteran suicide prevention event.

“Our purpose for creating these displays is to inspire someone to reach out and help a Veteran in need,” said John Demarco, a member of the Knights of Columbus of South New Jersey.

Local Veteran Service Organizations and the Wilmington VA Medical Center Outreach team were on hand to provide suicide prevention resources.

The event was at the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Northfield, N.J. 

Members of Keep Our Veterans Alive (KOVA), a community-based Veteran coalition, attended the event. KOVA provides tools and coordinates resources to organizations to raise awareness, and to train and educate the community to combat Veteran suicide and save lives.

“Be there in their time of need.”

Matt Jacobs, VA Community Engagement and Partnership coordinator, encouraged everyone to use the #BeThere hashtag.

“Be there for Veterans, be there for their families, and simply be there in their time of need,” he said. “We want to be there before the crisis, providing services, providing jobs, providing houses, and providing resources that are so needed.”

For the last 30 days, 600 flags have flown to memorialize the approximately 20 Veterans whose lives end daily because of suicide.

Jacobs called on everyone in attendance to help with areas that need improvement:

  • Identifying service members, Veterans and their families
  • Promoting connectedness
  • Improving care and increasing lethal means safety

Kim Butler is the associate director of Operations. She spoke on the need for spreading the message of suicide prevention to the Veterans and audience members.

Multiply the message out into the world

“Each of you here already know this message, but you need to multiply that out into the world,” Butler said. “Everyone knows someone who needs help.”

She stated that Wilmington VA is also focused on expanding access to health care. It also focuses on ending Veteran homelessness and fighting food insecurity and substance abuse.

The Wilmington VA Homeless Program has set up mobile food pantries and virtual landlord fairs. It continues to check in on homeless Veterans.

Improvement in substance abuse disorder treatment has been funded and work has started to be put into place as well as the funding for the new Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Center, which will be completed in 2023.

Veterans Crisis Line

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran in crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource. Veterans, their families and their friends can access the line every day at any time.

Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at or text to 838255. Some of the trained responders are Veterans themselves. Responders are ready to listen, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Related blog post: VA researchers use novel approach to gain insight into suicide risk factors.

By James Pernol is a VHA public affairs specialist

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Published on Jul. 23, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

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One Comment

  1. Bill Lane July 31, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    I want my next job, no matter the salary, to be helping vets, especially in the mental health area. I don’t have clinical training, but have experience dealing with mental health challenges.

    I don’t know how to get this important work and make a difference in people’s / vets lives.

    Anyone have a pathway?
    God Bless,
    Bill Lane

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