Breaking the stigma of mental health

Air Force veteran Kevin Hertell is this week’s guest on The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast. Hertell, a post 9/11 veteran, is the founder and president of Suicide Awareness and Remembrance (SAR). In 2016, he lost his cousin, Air Force veteran Robert Dean, to suicide.

That started Hertell, a member of American Legion Post 336 in Glenhead, N.Y., on a path of learning about veterans suicide and then becoming actively engaged in finding solutions for the crisis.

“That kind of thrust me into it,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t know unless they have been directly impacted by suicide is that when someone dies by suicide in your family, other family members have ideations. About a year later, my blood cousin, Clay, who is a civilian, also died by suicide.”

Hertell launched SAR to raise awareness about the issue. In April, he was on hand for the first official SAR flag-raising at an American Legion post. The SAR flag was raised at American Legion Post 336, where it will create awareness about the veteran suicide epidemic.

“Our primary mission is to change the perception of mental health and suicide to work on suicide prevention itself for veterans and military members to break the stigma of mental health and suicide so people can get treatment,” he explained.

The movement is similar to The American Legion’s Be The One campaign to raise awareness of and reduce the rate of veteran suicide. The Legion is encouraging veterans, their families and others to “Be the One” to save the life of just one veteran in crisis. Learn more at the resource page,

Hertell’s episode is among more than 140 that are all available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available for viewing at the Legion’s YouTube channel.