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Twenty-two a day

That's the average number of suicides by U.S. veterans, according to a 2013 report. Twenty-two men and women who served the United States as members of the military take their own lives daily, unable to cope with things after returning home.

I didn't know that, and even if I knew the numbers were high, I didn't have a context until April 18th, when I was at Stockton University for a poetry writing workshop with Peter Murphy and his writing organization. That's where I noticed the small American flags planted in front of the students' center. You can read a bit about their project and objective in the local paper or on the campus organization's Facebook page.


Photo from the Veteran Suicide Awareness Project Facebook page

The number of flags made an impact, and I can only imagine that by the 30th, when all 660 flags are in place, it will be that much stronger. It's probably not a surprise, then, that in addition to the poem topics I was assigned, I wrote a pantoum about those flags and what they represent, since I was in the pantoum zone after working on another one that I'll be posting this Friday along with all my poetry sisters.

Twenty-two a Day
by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

A gardener has planted
hundreds of American flags,
representing thousands
of American dead.

Hundreds of American flags,
a silent tribute
to American veterans, dead
by their own hands.

A silent tribute,
a powerful message
from their own. Hands
reach toward -- what?

A powerful message,
representing thousands,
reaching toward what
a gardener has planted.

Here's a link to the Veterans Crisis Line, if you or someone you know needs help.




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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
deenaml
Apr. 27th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC)
A man from a local Veterans Outreach Center spoke at my library this year and until then I had no idea the suicide rate for vets was so high either. I feel lucky that VOC exists in my city, and hope those who need help do seek it out. Thanks for sharing this and your poem.
kellyrfineman
Apr. 29th, 2015 01:00 pm (UTC)
The rate caught me off-guard, too. I think I knew it was an unacceptably high percentage from watching Rachel Maddow, but the number -- 22/day -- really caught me out. And seeing it visually represented with all those flags really nailed it home.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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