ROCK FALLS – A Veterans Day ceremony Monday in Rock Falls had the usual features – an honor guard, flags, taps and a gun salute.
But it included something new – a focus on veterans who suffer from depression.
Randy Wolber, commander of American Legion Post 902, informed a crowd of about 50 people that more veterans are dying because of suicide than those killed by the enemy.
In 2010, according to a Veterans Affairs report, 22 veterans died each day by suicide.
Wolber urged veterans to get help from the VA or the American Legion if they're suffering from depression or other mental illnesses.
One way to combat such problems, he said, is to let veterans know they are appreciated.
In an interview afterward, Wolber, a Vietnam veteran, said he was surprised by the statistic. He said he was reading a speech supplied by the American Legion and that he had not seen a focus on suicides before.
"I've been talking about this for years," he said. "[Service members] are going on tours two or three times. That's more than we should ask of them. We haven't seen all of the negative effects from this. It really scares me."
During the ceremony at the band shell in Veterans Memorial Park, Mayor Bill Wescott, who served in the Air Force, praised veterans.
"We have a simple heartfelt message: Thank you," he said.
State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, who represents Whiteside County, and Whiteside County State's Attorney Trish Joyce also attended.
Later, veterans visited 10 nursing homes in Sterling and Rock Falls to honor those who couldn't make it to the ceremony.