Veteran groups mark POW’s birthday with rally

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Veterans across the Valley gathered in downtown Youngstown to bring attention to one of their comrades that has been a prisoner of war for five years.

The event is also drawing attention to the hundreds of veterans who have taken their own lives this year.

March 28 is Bowe Bergdahl’s 28th birthday. In his honor, residents in the Valley joined others nationwide who gathered to send a message to Washington: Bring Bowe back.

Bergdahl was captured June 30, 2009. Officials believe he is still alive and being held by the Taliban in Pakistan. He is the only POW from the War on Terror military campaign.

“Our mission is to try to get Bowe home. This is unacceptable. It is going on five years, and there is no reason why Bowe should not be home,” said Leo Connelly, Jr. with the Mahoning County Veterans Commission. “We should make an attempt to get him home.”

Veterans called their gathering in Youngstown an “Un-Happy Birthday” rally, bringing attention to not only Bergdahl but all the POWs and MIAs.

“It is a soldier’s creed to leave no man behind,” said Connelly. “That is what we are attempting to do today, to make people aware of it.”

Leaving no man behind also applies to those coming home. This year alone, 1,892 service members and veterans have taken their own lives.

“Coming back, you don’t really seek it out. You know you are seen as weak, but guys need help and hands are being extended to them in the Valley and it is a blessing,” said Michael Derr, veteran.

Derr said there are several resources for service men and women who are suffering after their return home, including the Veterans Treatment Court which helps those suffering from PTSD get to the Veterans Administration where they can be evaluated and referred to other agencies that can help.

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