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Washington County 'witness tree' brings awareness to veteran suicide

Posted at 1:24 PM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 18:27:42-05

Veterans Day is typically recognized as time to thank our vets for their service. However, Washington County is one of more than a dozen communities across the country taking the day to bring awareness to veteran suicide.

"The more you talk about it the more people are aware of it and maybe we can handle it better because it's not only that one dog tag that we hang from that one person that committed suicide, but it's a dozen loved ones that are affected by it too," said Ron Schnorenberg.

"It's not that they didn't come back. It's that all of it, yah know their whole soul didn't come back," said Jeff Werner.

In Hartford, Slinger and West Bend, a group hung 22 blank dog tags from what they're calling a witness tree every day in November leading up to Veterans Day.

"When we include national guards troops and reservists and our veterans, 22 on average per day will tragically lose their life to suicide," said Jim Schleif.

Pastor Jim Schleif is a veteran himself and a facilitator for the national organization Warrior's Journey Home. He hopes the witness trees make people think.

"We hang 22 blank dog tags a day, kind of like the unknown soldier. We don't know their names or faces, but we know tragically that's a life lost," said Schleif.

242 tags represent lives lost in just 11 days.

"We often get caught up in the hero side of that story and that's a glamorous one and it's the one we like to share and it's the one that's easy to share, but the difficulty is that makes it even more challenging for those that are baring some of those moral injuries and those wounds to the soul," said Schleif.

Warrior's Journey Home holds healing circles for veterans struggling. Learn more here