Mother hosts event to bring awareness after losing her son to suicide

Michael Vinson was an Air Force veteran who is described by his mother as someone who was committed and compassionate for others.
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 10:48 PM CDT
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MADISON, Miss. (WLBT) - Michael Vinson was known for serving this country, but his mother Susan Cleland says he had silent struggles no one ever knew about.

To keep his memory alive, she invited hundreds of people who have also lost loved ones to suicide to participate in a three-mile run at Lake Caroline in Madison.

Vinson was an Air Force veteran who is described by his mother as someone who was committed and compassionate for others.

“He worked on search and rescue helicopters. He got and became a civilian contractor doing the same exact work. He had three tours in Afghanistan. We did not know he was struggling or had any kind of problems,” Cleland said.

Following his death, Cleland was stunned when she found out as many as 22 U.S. veterans die by suicide daily.

That’s one death every 65 minutes, and that’s also why Cleland started a non-profit organization called “Mission Vigilant – For the 22.”

The organization provides suicide-prevention services for active-duty military, veterans, and first responders, and aims to prevent other families from having to go through what she experienced.

“We want to share that there is a chance that somebody is going through some kind of trauma, PTSD, depression and they are serving because they are doing all their jobs for us and we want them to that we are here for you,” she said.

Mississippi writer Sherye Green co-authored a book with Cleland that highlights the experiences of veteran suicide survivors.

At Saturday’s event, Cleland and Green signed copies of their book called Mission Vigilant: A Mother’s Crusade to Stem the Tide of Veteran Suicide.

“This is a story that’s going to break your heart in half, give you lots of hope and tell you God’s purpose is something different,” Cleland said.

It’s a story that Pam Younger relates to as well. Her only child, Bridgett Horn, also served in the Military. In 2020, Younger received a devastating call.

“I was at work, and I got a text that said, ‘Momma, I love you with all my heart. I just can’t live this life anymore,’” she said.

And now she’s making this plea.

”My biggest quest for these people that are going to be watching is looking at me standing right here before you now. Do you really want to do this to your mother? Think about the people you’re leaving behind because it’s hard,” Younger said.

All proceeds from Saturday’s event will go towards suicide prevention and awareness

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