I am an Amer­i­can

We are One Na­tion

The Arizona Republic - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN MCCARTHY

Each week, this se­ries will in­tro­duce you to an ex­cep­tional Amer­i­can who unites, rather than di­vides, our com­mu­ni­ties. In this in­stall­ment, read about Robin Kiepert, “a mother, a wife and a vet­eran” who is an ad­vo­cate for veter­ans with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Each week, this se­ries will in­tro­duce you to an ex­cep­tional Amer­i­can who unites, rather than di­vides, our com­mu­ni­ties. To read more about the Amer­i­can pro­filed here and more av­er­age Amer­i­cans do­ing ex­cep­tional things, visit one­na­tion.us­ato­day.com.

Robin Kiepert de­scribes her­self as “a mother, a wife and a vet­eran.”

Th­ese days the Mer­ritt Is­land, Florida, woman can add an­other ti­tle: post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der aware­ness ad­vo­cate.

“My youngest son, Ter­rance Jef­fery O’Hearn, was de­ployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Kiepert, who served eight years her­self in the Air Force. “When he came home af­ter his dis­charge, it be­came very ap­par­ent that things had changed for him. He was di­ag­nosed with se­vere PTSD and ul­ti­mately took his own life.”

O’Hearn was 30 when he hanged him­self in his Cal­i­for­nia apart­ment in 2016.

O’Hearn was be­ing treated by the De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs, but for pri­vacy rea­sons, the VA couldn’t share details of his con­di­tion with Kiepert.

About a year af­ter O’Hearn’s death, Kiepert de­cided

she needed to do some­thing to help bring aware­ness of how large a prob­lem PTSD is for re­turn­ing sol­diers.

Kiepert started a Face­book com­mu­nity, “Linked Arms for Veter­ans,” for peo­ple to share their sto­ries of strug­gling with PTSD.

As she started to speak out about her

“I would like to see that peo­ple are aware that it is hap­pen­ing ... that it is hap­pen­ing in the com­mu­nity.” ROBIN KIEPERT WORKS TO RAISE AWARE­NESS OF PTSD-RE­LATED SUI­CIDE

ex­pe­ri­ence, Kiepert was sur­prised to find that there were still lots of peo­ple who were not aware of the prob­lems with veter­ans and ac­tive-duty mil­i­tary mem­bers com­mit­ting sui­cide.

Ear­lier this year, she be­gan to think about ways to in­crease aware­ness. She found her in­spi­ra­tion in Ohio.

Howard Berry is a Cincin­nati man whose son, Staff Sgt. Joshua Berry, com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2013.

In March, Berry planted 660 Ameri- can flags on a hill­side over­look­ing the Ohio River — one for ev­ery mil­i­tary mem­ber or vet­eran es­ti­mated to com­mit sui­cide each month.

Kiepert is hop­ing to set up a sim­i­lar dis­play near her home on Florida’s Space Coast.

“I would like to see that peo­ple are aware that it is hap­pen­ing … that it is hap­pen­ing in the com­mu­nity, that it is hap­pen­ing to peo­ple in their neigh­bor­hood.”

MAL­COLM DENEMARK/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

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