Empty boots line hallway for veteran suicide awareness

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Twenty-two military boots lined the entrance to the West Building Tuesday at Washington State University Tri-Cities to demonstrate the stark reality of veteran suicide in the United States.

Every day, approximately 90 individuals in the United States commit suicide; among those, 22 are veterans. The statistic has meaning at WSU Tri-Cities where more than 100 of the 1,593 students are veterans.

“It’s something that hits close to home for many veterans and is an important topic to highlight,” said Nick French, WSU Tri-Cities veteran student and Veteran Corps of America navigator. “We wanted to have something that would pop out and symbolize how many veterans actually commit suicide. Twenty-two veterans committing suicide each day is too many.”

He said the demonstration coincided with National Suicide Awareness month and the Veteran Crisis Line’s #22toomany campaign.

He said he got the idea during biannual training for the Veteran Corps of America: “It’s a simple but really impactful thing that sheds light on this issue.”

“Many of the boots here are from current students,” French said. “We have boots from all the different branches. We feel that students providing their own boots makes it personal to this campus.”

He said he hopes the message reaches students who might not outwardly make themselves known as veterans on campus.

“A lot of veterans go to school here and they don’t want to be recognized – they just want to be a student again, which is totally cool,” he said.

“I’m sure there are a lot of veterans walking by that see this and, hopefully, it means something to them,” he added. “Some people have gotten kind of emotional over it, and we’ve gotten to meet a lot of people who are interested.”

The WSU Tri-Cities Veteran Support Center provides veteran students with referrals to resources including housing, psychological help and more. For information pertaining to suicide prevention, visit http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-8255.