An effort to raise awareness for fallen soldiers has made its way to a Gilsum, New Hampshire farm.
DV Farm is a veteran-owned nonprofit organization that provides long-term rehabilitation for homeless veterans. Its owner, Mike Rivers, is a former homeless Army veteran himself.
“Howard Berry contacted me a couple of weeks ago and explained to me about his mission to display a memorial tribute in all 50 states,” Rivers told American Military News.
Howard Berry is the man behind the “Flags for Forgotten Soldiers” movement. He started the movement to spread awareness of veteran suicide after the loss of his own veteran son. Staff Sgt. Joshua Berry died by suicide in 2013 after suffering from PTSD related to his time in Afghanistan and then surviving the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.
Berry explained that his son didn’t receive help from the VA after surviving the shooting.
“Josh was told that he wasn’t allowed to talk about what happened at [Fort] Hood, and if he did, there was a gag order in place and he would be brought up on charges,” he told News Center Maine.
Since then, he has reached out to members of Congress, met with lawmakers in Washington, and worked with local Veterans Affairs organizations to advocate for better veterans’ health services.
Berry’s mission is to “gather enough flags so that these forgotten soldiers can be honored and remembered in each of the fifty states,” his GoFundMe page says.
Rivers and his DV Farm are now proudly hosting the flag display.
DV Farm uses a camaraderie-based structure including equine therapy and other activities on the farm with a “tough love” approach to help veterans battle issues such as addictions and homelessness.
“[Berry] asked if we would represent New Hampshire, and we were honored to take that request,” Rivers said. “He came out and we sponsored it.”
The display serves as “a visual representation of a month’s worth of suicides,” Rivers explained.
The display consists of 660 flags – representing the 660 veterans who die by suicide each month. It’s accompanied by a sign explaining the purpose of the display, and a number to the Veteran’s Crisis Line.
An open field on the farm is serving as the temporary home for the display, and it is open to the public every day for the month of July.
“We deal with veteran suicide on a daily basis,” Rivers said. “We’re happy to host the flags.”
The display will remain on DV Farm through the end of July. Afterward, the flags will move to the next host.
“When they’re done, we hope to bundle them up and send them to the next state, whichever that may be,” Rivers said.
“We hope to make it an annual tradition,” he added.
After a year, Berry’s organization has established memorial displays in 25 states. He is hopeful to continue expanding that number as awareness spreads.