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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Veteran’s Day luncheon highlights suicide awareness, local nonprofit

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Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of suicide

Suffolk University’s Office of Veterans Services hosted its seventh annual Veterans Day luncheon on Nov. 10 to celebrate and honor those who served within the university community.

Alexandra Patterson, director of Suffolk’s veterans services, said since its creation the event has grown as it continues to strengthen community bonds amongst veterans.

“About seven years ago, […] our first event had 15 people in it. And now we are pushing 70 to 100, depending on the year,” Patterson said. “it’s designed to bring the community together, bring our student veterans together, across undergrad, grad and law to connect.”

This year, keynote speaker David Campisano, Suffolk graduate student and class of 2019 alum, veteran and founder of the nonprofit 22Mohawks, spoke on suicide awareness and prevention among the veteran community. Campisano spoke on his own experiences with loss through suicide, and the effects it had on him.

“It hit me kind of hard. It made me realize that as a leader, I’d failed John,” said Campisano of his friend he lost to suicide. “When your uniform comes off, your service doesn’t end. We still live by our creeds, we still have that American flag on our shoulder.”

Campisano said mental health amongst veterans can be overlooked, and that small efforts do matter in the long run.

“When you’re able to talk about those unhappy things with someone who’s experienced similar things, it’s just a relief,” said Campisano.

22Mohawks’ mission is to raise awareness about suicide prevention, primarily through its “Pups for Vets” program, which matches a therapy dog to a veteran free of charge. The Millis-based program was launched in fall of 2021.

According to its website, Mohawk22’s mission “is to provide the physical, mental, and financial support veterans need while bringing together their loved ones and communities.”

Campisano said his own dog inspired the nonprofit’s mission.

“No matter what happens during the day when I come home, my dog loves me no matter what and it just makes me feel good,” he said. The first request for a dog came just two days after the launch of the nonprofit’s website, and kicked off a project that would change the lives of local veterans.

According to Campisano, “Pups for Vets” has given 23 dogs to veterans since its creation.

The event holds a special place in Patterson’s heart, as she has family members who served in the Vietnam War. To Patterson, however, Suffolk’s veteran outreach is about community connection.

“To see all our student veterans, as many as we can get together in a room, connect so they feel like they’re not alone and this community [is powerful],” she said. 

Patterson added that Chair of the Suffolk Board of Trustees Robert Lamb, who served for six years as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, is a unique and invaluable part of Suffolk’s veteran community.

For students looking to get further involved in veterans services, Patterson said there are year-round opportunities through the Center for Community Engagement, but that many of the events are put on by Suffolk veterans themselves.

“A lot of the work that [is] specifically for our veterans community happens within the veterans themselves,” said Patterson.

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Shealagh Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief | she/her
Shealagh is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in international relations from Ashby, Mass. She has previously worked as a co-op for the Boston Globe on the homepage desk and as an intern for GBH News and Boston Public Radio. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding a new favorite coffee spot and exploring Boston. She is a huge art lover and wants nothing more than to see the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. After graduation, Shealagh hopes to be a political journalist in Washington D.C. Follow Shealagh on Twitter @ShealaghS.

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Veteran’s Day luncheon highlights suicide awareness, local nonprofit