On Wednesday, a group of around 40 people gathered in Murfreesboro to spread awareness about the exceptionally high incidence of suicide among veterans.
Matthew O’Dell, owner of Reveille Joe Coffee Co., started organizing monthly gatherings on the square in August. On the 22nd of each month, the group stands and holds handmade signs that memorialize the estimated 8,000 veterans that kill themselves per month in the United States and offer encouragement to those still struggling with post-traumatic stress disordert and depression.
“Being out here helps remind people that someone cares. If we can wave or smile to the right person, I know we will make an impact,” O’Dell said.
Members of the group held signs with slogans like “I Am a Veteran,” “Not Alone” and “PTSD Can Turn Your Life Upside Down,” often alongside the number 22–the average number of veterans who commit suicide each day in America.
O’Dell is a veteran himself. The name of his shop, “reveille,” comes from the early morning bugle call used on military bases. Lining the sidewalk today, however, was an open assortment of veterans, their families, and concerned citizens.
“When I started doing these, I thought I would just be the one crazy dude out here with signs, but now it’s developed into a sizable group spreading awareness and encouragement,” O’Dell said.
At first blush, the image of a group of people standing around a government building holding signs carries the implication of a political demonstration, but O’Dell assures that he and his group are not protesters.
“We are not protesters. Protesters want somebody else to fix a problem; we want to fix it ourselves,” O’Dell said. “We want to encourage people who need it, and encourage those who don’t to pass it on.”
MTSU has repeatedly been recognized by publications like Military Times and G.I. Jobs magazine as one of the top college destinations for veterans.
“There are plenty of locals and loved ones battling depression, and we need to recognize that it is not easy,” O’Dell said. “I have been in the military. I have been in combat. However, the only battle I got in that I couldn’t handle was depression.”
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