SAN ANTONIO – Larissa Martinez said every Veterans Day, she thinks of her dad.
“Seeing him passing at 47 years old was too young,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s father died by suicide. She said he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after he served in the Vietnam War.
Martinez, her father, and so many more in her family are veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
“We weren’t really taught to be cognitive, our self-care and mental health. We kind of were told to suck it up,” Martinez said. “It’s just so important to make sure that we are looking at what those triggers are and what those signs are.”
Martinez is an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. She said veterans are at a heightened risk of suicide.
There are roughly 160,000 veterans living in Bexar County, and across San Antonio, people honored those who served in the military with Veterans Day.
Through parades, remembrance ceremonies and supply drives, people pushed to recognize both retired and active military personnel for their sacrifice and service.
“It’s a day to honor those that are serving and really thank those that did serve as well,” Amy Palmer, the president of Soldiers’ Angels, said.
Soldiers’ Angels is a group dedicated to helping and providing resources for military personnel, veterans and their families.
“There are veterans from one extreme to the other,” Palmer said. “There are populations of veterans that suffer from mental illness. With all the folks that are heading out to the Middle East, this weekend is an opportunity to honor them.”
Martinez said finding that connection and continuing to check in on veterans is a way to make sure the conversation of mental health awareness continues after Saturday.
“I feel like if we can still instill and have that hope within ourselves and for others and share it with others, that, that gives us a little bit of light to keep pushing forward,” Martinez said.
For veteran-specific mental health resources, click here.