The message, delivered in silence, was loud and clear.
Starting Sunday afternoon, Tim Chambers, a retired U.S. Marines staff sergeant, stood on a concrete median at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C., in his dress blues.
He did not stop standing for 24 hours.
He did not eat, drink water or take a bathroom break.
Memorial Day Weekend Plan of Attack https://t.co/AUEtCnmshQ
— The Saluting Marine (@SalutingMarine) May 24, 2020
The 45-year-old California resident’s mission was to to bring attention this past Memorial Day weekend to the high number of military veteran suicides.
So he stood at attention where Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street meet for an entire day and honored those comrades who have taken their own lives over the years.
He started this tradition in 2002, when he saluted members of a motorcycle group called “Rolling Thunder” participating in their annual Memorial Day tribute.
Chambers has never missed a year, according to WJLA, and decided this year to highlight veteran suicides with a 24-hour tribute.
Chambers’ tribute is undoubtedly a patriotic and honorable way to make everyone aware of a dire situation that needs to be addressed.
“At the beginning of the first hour, he held a salute for 22 minutes to symbolize the 22 American veterans who take their life every day, on average,” according to the outlet.
“The salute drops by one minute each hour, ultimately working its way down to zero.”
(According to The Washington Post, that figure, which comes from a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs report, may not be entirely accurate since “when it comes to veteran suicides, there is little reliable and comprehensive data.”)
Still, statistics from the VA’s 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report reveal that this is a serious issue.
In 2017, for instance, 6,139 veterans took their own lives — an average of 16.8 per day.
So why are these numbers so high?
A 2012 survey that asked 72 soldiers who tried to commit suicide why they attempted to do so reported that all of them cited “a desire to end intense emotional distress,” according to USA Today.
It’s undoubtedly tragic that so many soldiers who heroically volunteered to protect Americans’ freedoms are left seeking to put an end to the pain and suffering in their minds.
Chambers, meanwhile, runs a charity called Saluting Marine Cares, which helps veterans pay for medical bills not covered by the VA.
This Marine should not have to stand alone on the street in his his quest to stop veteran suicides. Chambers deserves the nation’s support in working for the day when he doesn’t have to hold his salute for one minute more.
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