Marchers spotlight veteran suicide epidemic

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Soldiers and cadets, veterans and civilians, moms and dads, and even babies in strollers set off on a trek Saturday morning from the American Legion Hall in Vineyard Haven for the 2019 March for Heroes.

The former VFW commander, Rick Bernard, said “between 20 and 22 veterans take their lives a day,” and the event is meant to bring awareness to this national tragedy.

Bernard, Kristin Pucino Gibson of the SSG Matthew A. Pucino Memorial Foundation, and Tiffany Ellis of the VFW are among the organizers of the event, which was scheduled to conclude with a barbecue, music, and a silent auction at the VFW at 4 pm.

Funds raised will be used to help veterans here on the Vineyard who may have financial, health, or family problems and don’t have anywhere to turn, Bernard said.

Bernard said Islanders and Island businesses have really “stepped up and helped,” and he thanked them for their support.

As The New York Times reported in April of this year, the federal government and the nation are facing an “unrelenting tide of veteran suicides” stemming from “a fragmented healthcare system, a shortage of mental health resources, especially in rural areas, a lack of funding for suicide research, and easy access to guns.”