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Airmen Place Flags in Remembrance of Those Lost to Suicide

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. —  The Integrated Primary Prevention office held their third Annual Flag Planting for Suicide Prevention month, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 6, 2023. 

 The IPP office and 62 volunteers planted flags along Missile Avenue to represent the 358 Airmen that lost their lives due to suicide last year. 

Alicia Thompson, IPP prevention analyst & Army veteran, said that more than 22 veterans a day take their lives and that due to these staggering numbers, she’s devoted her life to bringing a positive change. 

“The flag planting is a way to honor those we’ve lost,” Thompson said. “If we can be there for each other and build the Minot community, folks feel like they have a place to turn.”

Laurel Grams, IPP office director, said that suicide consistently ranks among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. 

“The importance of trying to prevent suicide is knowing it’s not just for today because we planted the flags, it’s not just for the month because it’s labeled suicide prevention month, it’s year-round,” Grams stated.  

Every September, the Department of Defense observes Suicide Prevention Month to promote prevention resources across military communities.

Grams stresses that suicide prevention doesn’t begin in the emergency room, but in the home, at work, and in our community.

“It’s our collective aspiration that throughout these efforts, we can prevent future tragedies and create a community where no one feels isolated in their struggles,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alberto Villa, 91st Security Forces Group, Security Forces, evaluator.

Suicide Prevention Month reinforces that everyone can play a role in preventing suicide including leaders, service members, and co-workers.  

“It’s always great to see our Airmen come out and participate,” said Donita Theiler, IPP office prevention coordinator specialist. “Hopefully they will go back to their units and inspire more people to come next year.”

Source: Minot Air Force Base