By Tom Tolen /

The American Legion Devereaux Post 141 of Howell has been planting crosses this month at its grounds on Grand River at Highland Road to commemorate the problem of suicide among veterans.

The legion has been steadily planting 22 crosses a day on the veterans’ organization’s property to call the public’s attention to the 22 American veterans who, on average, commit suicide every day. The placement of the crosses will continue until the end of the month of October.

In a ceremony held on Tuesday, former chief deputy county clerk Evelyn Montgomery, now retired, planted a cross in the ground at the legion’s site in Howell Twp. to honor and commemorate the death of her brother, Charles “Bud” Conely, a World War II veteran who took his own life when he was only 40 years old. Conely’s name is written on the simple cross, along with the words “Battle of the Bulge” and “Sgt., US Army, WW II.” Bud Conely was also the uncle of Brighton businessman John Conely. Bud Conely was a prisoner of war after being captured by the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge - considered a pivotal battle that paved the way for an eventual Allied victory in Europe.

Veteran suicide has been a problem in all wars the United States has fought in, but particularly more recent wars and military conflicts. A startling statistic is that nearly one in four suicides in the US is committed by a veteran. In addition, a 2017 study found that veterans with a substance abuse disorder had twice the risk of suicide than those without a substance abuse problem.

Factors leading to a suicide risk in veterans, as well as other groups, include frequent fits of anger, mood swings, extreme anxiety or agitation, increased alcohol consumption and/or substance abuse, self-destructive and risky behaviors such as driving while impaired, and feeling life is pointless while not wanting to live.

Anyone expressing or exhibiting the behaviors cited above is urged to seek help immediately. Those who know someone who needs help in dealing with deep depression or suicidal thoughts, whether a veteran or not, should let the individual know that help is available 24/7. The person is urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text 838255 or chat online with a crisis counselor. Or veterans can call their local American Legion or VFW post, and the person answering will put them in touch with certified mental health professionals.

(Story source: American Addiction Centers)