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‘Silent Watch’ planned in Clinton County to call attention to veterans suicides

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

By Gary Huffenberger -

WILMINGTON — A flag-draped coffin will be the central piece for a September event on the grounds of the Clinton County Courthouse intended to heighten awareness of the disproportionate number of veterans who end their own lives.

The Clinton County Veterans Service Office with the support of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren & Clinton Counties, and Wilmington Counseling Associates will organize the event called “Silent Watch”.

Volunteers — whether veterans or not — are invited to commit themselves to conduct a silent watch for about 20 minutes in front of the coffin, said Clinton County Veterans Service Commission Executive Director Ray Souder. In addition, a Wilmington police officer is expected to be part of the simple yet mournful scene throughout the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Silent Watch on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Interested people are asked to call the Clinton County Veterans Service Office (937-382-3233) and indicate a time range they would be available, and organizers will do their best to see to it that the coffin is always accompanied by volunteers keeping a somber watch.

Souder, whose voice broke when he spoke this week about the event with Clinton County commissioners, said a mental health professional will be on-site at least some of the time to answer questions.

This will be the first such event for Clinton County. All 88 counties in Ohio have been challenged to hold a Silent Watch, Souder said.

On average approximately 20 U.S. veterans die from suicide every day, according to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. The specific goal of Silent Watch is to bring about awareness of the extent of the problem of veterans suicides.

Souder stressed volunteers do not have to be veterans nor active members of the military. And those who have served in the military are not required to wear a uniform for the event.

The Silent Watch will be held in front of the Veterans Memorial located on the northeast corner of courthouse square.

At an unrelated appointment with commissioners Wednesday, Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) staff distributed a printed action plan pertaining to Age-Friendly Clinton County. Compiling an action plan as a guide was the next step in a five-year Age-Friendly initiative in Clinton County.

Clinton County officially joined the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Network of Age-Friendly Communities in September 2018, with AARP recognizing a stated commitment by the county to develop comprehensive age-friendly policies.

In December 2018, the RPC published an age-friendly findings report for Clinton County. That report indicated almost 70 percent of older adults in the county live in areas without affordable public transportation. Hence, a key part of the Age-Friendly Clinton County initiative relates to public transportation.

In connection with that, the county has since been awarded a grant for a mobility manager. A mobility manager is meant to help address unmet transportation needs in the county. Moreover, RPC Associate Director Stephen Crouch said Wednesday that the Ohio Department of Transportation has given a green light for the county to apply for a countywide public transportation system.

Crouch said he is meeting with a transportation council on Thursday to discuss it.

“We’re really wanting to have a conversation about how we can pay for it,” said Crouch.

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