Stand­ing up for com­rades

Some 300 vet­er­ans ‘ walk post’ on a Pasadena bridge to raise aware­ness of mil­i­tary sui­cides.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Alene Tchekm­e­dyian alene. tchekm­e­dyian@ latimes. com

Don­ning a mil­i­tary hel­met and f lak jacket, Wil­liam Valen­zuela walked back and forth for two hours along the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena.

The El Monte res­i­dent, who served in the Marine Corps from 1977 to 1983, was among more than 300 vet­er­ans slated to “walk post” along the bridge this week to raise aware­ness about the 22 vet­er­ans who com­mit sui­cide ev­ery day na­tion­wide.

For one to four hours at a time dur­ing the round- the­clock event, which wraps up Satur­day, vet­er­ans have been walk­ing across what’s com­monly re­ferred to as “Sui­cide Bridge,” wear­ing tags that read, “Not on my watch.”

A grow­ing col­lec­tion of those tags sits on a bat­tle­field cross con­structed near the south end of the bridge, which or­ga­niz­ers have lined with Amer­i­can f lags.

“Our young men and women shouldn’t be com­ing back not get­ting the help they need,” said Valen­zuela, 56.

His nephew, he said, comit­ted sui­cide at 23 years old af­ter a tour in Afghanistan.

Since 1919, the Colorado Street Bridge has seen more than 150 sui­cide deaths, ac­cord­ing to a city re­port.

The idea for the six- day watch — hosted by Well­ness Works, a Glendale- based non­profit that pro­vides sup­port ser­vices for vet­er­ans — emerged sev­eral months ago af­ter one for­mer Marine “slipped through the cracks of a sys­tem that was re­ally sup­posed to help him,” said Kathy Lynch, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s clin­i­cal di­rec­tor.

The vet­eran, who was sui­ci­dal, ran away af­ter his aunt took him to get treated and has not been heard from since, Lynch said.

“We just pray ev­ery day, just like all those vet­er­ans out there that are in de­spair, that some­how there’s some­body to give him help,” Lynch said.

Ri­cardo Dearatanha Los An­ge­les Times

VET­ER­ANS pro­vided a week­long watch on the Colorado Street Bridge, a. k. a. Sui­cide Bridge, to raise aware­ness of vet­eran sui­cide.

Raul Roa Glendale News- Press

VET­ERAN Wil­liam Valen­zuela says mil­i­tary vet­er­ans are not get­ting the help they need when they re­turn. Na­tion­ally, 22 com­mit sui­cide ev­ery day.

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