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NAMI Holds First Candlelight Vigil in Springfield for Veterans

Additional gatherings are planned in Springfield to support veterans affected by mental illness. KSMU’s Kaitlyn Schwers attended the first ceremony Monday night where the public was invited to light candles—each for a veteran who has died by their own hand.
NAMI Candlelight Vigil
NAMI's candlelight vigil last month, where Sam Hudson (center) attended to remember his friend and to support veterans whose lives are affected by mental illness. /Credit: Kaitlyn Schwers

Additional gatherings are planned in Springfield to support veterans affected by mental illness. KSMU’s Kaitlyn Schwers attended the first ceremony Monday night where the public was invited to light candles—each for a veteran who has died by their own hand.

On average, 22 veterans take their lives each day, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. The organization’s Springfield branch held its first candlelight vigil to remember those veterans who have lost their lives due to suicide, but to also raise awareness on the issue.

Sam Hudson works at the Veteran’s Center in Springfield, and has served in Vietnam. He’s thankful that he came out unscathed. However, one of Hudson’s friends was not as fortunate.

“That’s one of the reasons that brought me here. I had a friend of mine that put a gun to his head quite a while back, and I wish he was still here,” Hudson said.

Dewayne Long is the executive director of NAMI. He says awareness is key to prevention and hopes to see more people come to the next candlelight vigil, which will now take place on the 22nd of every month.

“We would have liked to see a better turnout, but that’s part of that desire to raise that awareness, so that people will really think about the fact that these are young men and women who have gone on to fight these battles and they come home and yet the battle still rages on. And because of that battle, sometimes they look for ways to escape and that escape is suicide,” he said.

The next ceremony will be held on Thursday, August 22 at the NAMI Hope Center on 1701 S. Campbell Ave. In addition, Long says NAMI will host a 5K run for suicide prevention and education on August 23.

Learn more about NAMI by visiting nami.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Kaitlyn Schwers.