American Legion in Howell honors veterans, brings awareness to veteran suicides

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 882 Michigan veterans took their own lives between 2016-2020.
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2022 at 7:44 PM EDT
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HOWELL, Mich. (WILX) - The Howell American Legion is placing crosses representing veteran lives not on the battlefield, but from mental illness.

Each cross represents the daily veterans’ lives lost from suicide. It’s a big problem in the U.S and in Michigan.

Related: New Veterans Clinic in Howell expected to serve 3,000 veterans

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Veteran Affairs, 882 Michigan veterans took their own lives between 2016 and 2020.

In September, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pledged $1.2 million for veteran suicide prevention programs. It’s the biggest investment for outreach in the state for the past 20 years.

Placing crosses is an effort to bring attention to saving the lives of the men and women who have served our country. Jon Luker is a veteran and he’s suffered from mental illness.

“That even today, it’s hard to believe that what I saw and felt and experienced in Panama actually happened,” Luker said. “But I’m bearing the scars.”

Now, Luker is raising awareness for those suffering by placing crosses in front of the American Legion in Howell.

The American Legion is placing 22 crosses every day for 30 consecutive days. The crosses represent the 660 veterans that take their lives in the U.S each month. The demonstration began on Oct. 12 and will run through Nov. 10.

“Wanted some kind of way to make it clear to the public that not it’s just a number, it’s actual cost,” said Luker. “None of us got into this condition by ourselves, none of us are going to get out of this condition by ourselves either. You don’t need to do that by yourself, talk to somebody, anybody it’s got to start with you opening your mouth, so people know what’s going on inside you, then we can help once we know.”

Luker said he is remembering those veterans - one who took his own life after a battle with alcoholism and another one who lost a battle with prescription pills.

“He ended up with an overdose of drugs that killed him,” said Luker.

He said you can join The American Legion in Howell in placing a cross at 6:15 p.m. each day. As of Thursday night, there will be 506 crosses in front of the American Legion. The demonstration ends on Nov. 10.

On Nov. 11, for Veterans Day, the American Legion will be honoring the living service members.

If you or anyone you know is a veteran struggling with mental health you can call 988 and press 1 to connect with the Veterans Crisis Line, text 838255 or chat online on the official website here. You can access all these resources and more at

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