Veterans group places thousands of flags on National Mall to draw attention to suicide crisis
STARS AND STRIPES
By NIKKI WENTLING
Published: October 3, 2018
WASHINGTON — Thousands of American flags filled a grassy expanse on the National Mall on Wednesday morning, each of them representing a veteran or a servicemember who died by suicide in 2018 so far.
Maj. Sandra Lee Altamirano of the Army Reserve said she took military leave to help place the 5,520 U.S. flags. She recently lost three friends to suicide, two of whom were veterans.
A couple of years ago, after serving three deployments in Iraq, she contemplated suicide herself.
“Each of these flags is a name, a person. Three of them are my friends, and one could’ve been me,” said Altamirano, now a suicide prevention liaison in the Reserve. “I hope this helps people see how vast of an issue this is. It’s overwhelming. It’s a crisis.”
The flags were placed on the Mall by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America, an advocacy group trying to draw awareness to the issue of veteran suicide.
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