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Military Suicide Victims Remembered at Candlelight Vigil

BRANSON, Mo. -- A candlelight vigil Wednesday night in Branson remembered military service members and veterans who have taken their own lives.
BRANSON, Mo. -- A candlelight vigil Wednesday night in Branson honored military service members and veterans who have taken their own lives.

Those who organized the event want to raise awareness of how much mental health plays a role in this epidemic.

The numbers are startling.

In the Army, one active duty soldier takes his or her life every day.

"More suicides than killed in combat on a daily basis," NAMI Missouri Member Michael Jones said.

And each day 22 veterans of every generation in this country become victims of suicide.

"They are troubled by the things that happen in combat, they're losing their friends, sometimes their families fall apart," Retired Army Chaplain Paul Vicalvi said, "They reach the end of the rope and feel alone and take their lives."

On Wednesday a group gathered at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Branson for a candlelight vigil.

To remember those who have taken their own lives and let their families know that they're not forgotten.

While there are suicide prevention programs available, they don't seem to be helping.

"We just haven't figured out what we can do to curb the horrible numbers that we're facing," Jones said.

They said realizing that mental health problems are at the root of military suicide could be an important step in the right direction.

Roughly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and even more suffer from undiagnosed depression.

"They are suffering so many things and the mental illness is just one more thing they have to struggle with," Jones said.

"Suicide was becoming an epidemic when I was on active duty," Vicalvi said.

Veterans groups like the DAV and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, are teaming up to make sure that people know about this major issue.

"We can care and recognize the fact that this is going on, not sweep it under the table," Vicalvi said.

And to ensure the men and women of our military that support is available when they return home.
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