FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – The University of North Alabama (UNA) is one of nine schools chosen to participate in Operation We Remember, a campaign by the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs to raise awareness about veteran suicide prevention.
The university hosted a memorial with 152 American flags, representing the 152 veterans in Alabama that committed suicide in 2020.
Tina Smith from UNA Student Counseling Services told News 19 that there are still many people who are uncomfortable talking about mental health.
“We think that this would be something that we can have a conversation about in 2022, but we can’t,” Smith said. “It’s often viewed as being something that should be hidden, something that should be overlooked, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.”
Doug McClain, a military veteran with more than 24 years of service, said that most people know a veteran. He told News 19 that people should be reaching out to the veterans that they know to check on them.
“Check in with them. Just check in,” McClain said. “Don’t be afraid to have that tough conversation.”
Cody Ticer is a student and member of the ROTC at UNA. Ticer said he often wishes veteran mental health was talked about more, and he’s confident that these 152 flags can help make a difference.
“I think most people just don’t realize how significant that number is,” Ticer said. “This is a way that we can actually find out how to do something about it.”
The display will remain on UNA’s campus until September 23. Members of the Student Veterans of America will be at the memorial from noon to 1:00 p.m. to provide statistics and show people how they can help reduce the number of veteran suicides.