The City of Jacksonville is joining with four other Northeast Florida counties to try to safeguard military veterans against suicide.
Federal statistics show at least 20 veterans are killing themselves every day, which is what drove the creation of a program called Fire Watch.
Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond pushed for it to be implemented. He is also CEO of K9s for Warriors, a Ponte Vedra-based nonprofit that provides service dogs to veterans with PTSD.
He said, “In the Army and the Marines, the Fire Watch means the person who’s holding the shift at night to keep an eye on their battle buddies and to make sure that if danger comes, they alert everyone. That’s what we’re doing here — keeping an eye out, keeping watch.”
Diamond said Fire Watch will be a peer-to-peer network of thousands of veterans who’ve pledged to keep each other safe.
“If we’ve learned anything about veteran suicide prevention it’s that the difference between life and death is often just having one person in the world who you care about and who cares about you and who will be there when it’s the darkest. And that’s what we want to do — create those relationships so that everybody has someone,” he said.
Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties have all signed on to Fire Watch. The regional program is still being developed.