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Witness Tree in Akron Draws Attention to Mental Health Challenges Veterans Face

Veterans will be at the Summit County Courthouse this week to highlight the mental health issues that face returning soldiers. Every morning, 22 dog tags will be placed on a Witness Tree to recognize that an estimated 22 veterans take their own lives each day. The project began in Pennsylvania. U.S. Army veteran John Schluep is bringing it to Akron. He’s a retired pastor, and he says many veterans experience a “spiritual crisis” after their service.

“In my opinion, those who take their own life because of what they did or didn’t do in a combat operation is a Killed After Action. But we don’t recognize that officially; we call it a suicide."

Schluep is also founder of Warriors’ Journey Home, a nonprofit which supports veterans. He says the goal is to treat the “invisible wounds” that can lead to suicide.

“The real healing takes place when we work collaboratively with not only the traditional models of medical treatment but also psychiatric treatment and with the spiritual treatment of what has occurred.”

Schluep also works with veterans facing legal issues in Summit County’s Valor Court, and that led to the Witness Tree’s placement near the courthouse entrance – adjacent to permanent memorials dedicated to Summit County residents who fought and died in the two World Wars.

The dog tag ceremonies take place at 8 a.m. daily through Veterans Day next Monday, Nov. 11. 

Summit County Veterans Services

1060 E Waterloo Rd, Akron 4430

(330) 643-2830

Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission

1849 Prospect Ave E #150, Cleveland 44115

(216) 698-2600

Stark County Veterans Service Commission

2955 Wise Ave NW, Canton 44708

(330) 451-7457