660 crosses going up at an American Legion post near Howell

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — When U.S. Army veteran Jon Luker returned from serving in the Panama Canal Zone during the Vietnam War era he struggled with his mental health.

“I was just walking around confused and not motivated to get involved in anything, but I didn’t understand the source of my confusion, why I was tired all the time and why I couldn’t get sleep,” Luker told the Livingston Daily.

Luker, 69, said his own experience overcoming an existential crisis inspired him to take over coordinating a veterans suicide awareness project originally founded by the Veterans Refuge Network.

Hundreds of crosses have already been installed outside the American Legion post in Howell Township to bring awareness to veteran suicide.

Everyday this month at 10 a.m., veterans, groups and individuals visit the American Legion Devereaux Post 141 to place more crosses and sometimes share personal stories.

Each day 22 new crosses are installed. The number is based on a 2013 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study that estimates about 22 veterans committed suicide each day between 1999 and 2010.

A 2019 report from the VA estimates the average number of veteran suicide deaths per day equaled or exceeded 16 between 2005 and 2017.

Luker said it is difficult to know the real number of veterans who die from suicide each day. He said he suspects the deaths are under reported.

By the end of this month, there will be 660 crosses outside the American Legion, signifying 22 suicides a day for 30 days.

Luker said there are several reasons some veterans do not receive help, including stigma surrounding mental health.

“It’s a little hard on your ego to consider yourself as someone who cannot function, especially when you’ve been in the military and you are supposed to be able to do anything,” he said. He added that some veterans are afraid of losing jobs that require them to maintain security clearances.

“The VA is underfunded. … I think many veterans think, if I get this service, then someone else won’t who needs it more,” he said.

He also said he thinks the VA’s mental health services are subpar.

Brighton businessman John Conely said his uncle Bud Conely took his own life at the age of 40, around the time John was born in 1962. John and his aunt, Evelyn Conely-Montgomery, Bud’s sister, dedicated one of the crosses to him by writing his name on it.

“He was a POW from the Battle of the Bulge,” during WWII, John Conely said. Bud Conely returned to the U.S. weighing about 95 pounds. “He recovered and stayed in the army, working as a Nazi POW guard in Michigan and Ohio. He was quite a hero.”

“It’s closer to home than we know,” Conely said. “We as citizens are responsible for taking care of veterans and knowing what we can do to help them.”

Bobby Bright, the American Legion post’s finance officer who served in Iraq, said the problem is widespread.

“Everybody knows someone,” Bright

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Europe crosses 150,000 daily coronavirus cases mark, a week after reporting 100,000 daily cases

By Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – Europe surpassed 150,000 daily coronavirus cases on Friday just a week after reporting 100,000 cases for the first time, according to Reuters tally, with countries such as France, Germany reporting record daily numbers of infections this week.

Much of Europe has tightened curbs including measures such as shutting or ordering early closing of bars, but now the surging infection rates are also testing governments’ resolve to keep schools and non-COVID medical care going.

Globally, cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase.

As a region, Europe is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined. The increase is partly explained by far more testing than was done in the first wave of the pandemic.

The United Kingdom, France, Russia, Netherlands, Germany and Spain accounted for about half of Europe’s new cases this week, according to a Reuters tally.

France, which is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 21,210 infections per day, reported a record 30,621 cases on Thursday, according to the tally.

In the past seven days it has registered nearly 142,800 new infections, more than the 132,430 registered during the entire two-month lockdown from mid-March to mid-May.

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a third of France’s population be put under nightly curfew on Wednesday, with the measure taking effect from Saturday.

The United Kingdom is reporting a seven-day average of 16,228 new cases per day, and has introduced a tiered system of tougher restrictions in some areas.

Germany has reported new daily records three times this week, reporting more than 7,000 daily cases for the first time on Thursday. It reported a record 7,830 new cases on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

By European standards, Germany has experienced relatively low infection and death rates so far during the pandemic, but Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned there could be 19,200 infections per day if current trends continue.

Europe currently has recorded over 17% of total global coronavirus cases and nearly 22% of deaths worldwide.

The five countries reporting the most deaths in Europe are the United Kingdom (43,429), Italy (36,427), Spain (33,775), France (33,134) and Russia (23,723), according to a Reuters tally.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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