Yesterday, I joined members of City Council and representatives from Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties to sign legislation and interlocal agreements creating The Fire Watch, a new, first-of-its-kind, veteran-led initiative to end veterans suicide in our community.
Jacksonville is a city that understands better than most what it means to serve in the U.S. Military. We are home to Naval Station Mayport, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Coast Guard Station Jacksonville, the Air National Guard, Marine Crops Blount Island command and much more. We are a city that is proud of our service men and women, and our prominent role in our nation’s security.
An estimated 125,000 veterans live in our five-county area. We are home to a large and growing veteran population. The sailors, soldiers, marine, airmen and all who proudly wear our nation's cloth are honored here in Northeast Florida.
But our veterans are facing a crisis. The statistics are troubling. Every day, an estimated 20 veterans take their own lives in this country. We owe it to our veterans to do everything in our power to put a stop to this. And that is what we're doing.
The name 'Fire Watch' is a military term referencing when a military member keeps the night watch over the barracks or encampment to watch over their comrades and warn of potential dangers. The program will coordinate and organize existing resources to combat the veteran suicide epidemic in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, private donors, media outlets, and nonprofits.
City Councilman Rory Diamond has led the charge to create The Fire Watch and brought together his colleagues from City Council and partners from all five counties with unanimous support. I am grateful for and commend his leadership in this effort. The legislation and agreements we signed yesterday will create a network of 10,000 veterans and allies, strengthen one-on-one support for those in need, and build stronger interpersonal connections.
To learn more about the program, visit TheFireWatch.org
This is a strong demonstration of the commitment Northeast Florida has for our military and veterans. I could not be more proud.