Virginia Beach family attending ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor Navy veteran who died by suicide
Virginia Beach resident Darla Grese’s twin sister was a Navy veteran who died by suicide on Veteran’s Day in 2010.
Grese, and her 10-year-old son, Brady, will be among the 200 people attending a special wreath laying ceremony hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, September 1, at noon. This is the first time a suicide prevention organization has been invited to host a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.
The ceremony is being held in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Week, September 10-16.
Darla and her sister, Kelli, joined the Navy together and served together at each duty station and made rank E-1 through E-5 in identical increments as Hospital Corpsman.
Kelli was initially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She made three suicide attempts before her death in 2010.
“Attending the event brings mixed emotions to the table for me,” said Grese. “I’m anxious because I’m not sure if I’ll successfully maintain my composure during such a powerful tribute to not only my sister, but to so many that lost their lives too soon.”
AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia hopes the event will shed light on the issue and inspire others to talk about mental health. “This is an important opportunity to recognize and honor all the men and women, past and present, who served in our military and have died by suicide,” said Gebbia. “Reaching out takes courage – courage we know these men and women possess.”
To Grese, she is touched by the invitation to attend the ceremony.
“I feel so incredibly fortunate,” she said. “I’m excited to share this with my 10-year-old son at a place where so many heroes rest.”
Grese has found healing through writing a memoir to share her sister’s story titled “Sister Surrendered.”
She’s also found the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks to be a huge part of recovery.
“Participating in the walk reminds you firsthand that you are not alone in your grief,” said Grese. “And that’s a powerful thing.”
Grese plans to take part in the Hampton Roads Out of the Darkness Walk at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex on October 15 with her “Team Kelli” banner and family and friends walking to honor her sister.
“I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to attend one of the walks to at least educate themselves,” Grese said. “Mental illness, depression and suicide come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and we are all vulnerable because we are human. “
The wreath laying ceremony will be streamed live on Friday at noon through Facebook at facebook.com/afspnational.
To learn more about the Hampton Roads Out of the Darkness Walk Series, visit afsp.org/HamptonRoads.