• ‘Fire Watch,' regional agreement to combat veteran suicide, to be finalized in Jacksonville

    By: Ryan Nelson , Action News Jax


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On Tuesday night, two local counties will make a decision that could save the lives of local veterans.

    Clay and Duval counties will vote on whether to enter "Fire Watch," an anticipated five-county coalition aimed at ending veteran suicide in northeast Florida. 


    Decarlton Armstrong Sr., a retired Navy and Army veteran, tells Action News Jax he's still living with the effects of facing combat in Iraq. 

    He tells us he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after he was seriously injured, receiving the second and third-degree burns.

    VA statistics show 22 veterans per day commit suicide. Armstrong says he knows the feeling of being in crisis.  

    "I used to think to myself, how would my family be without me? That's a suicidal thought," he said. 

    Jacksonville City Council and Clay County's board of commissioners are voting Tuesday to become the fourth and fifth counties to enter the regional Fire Watch agreement, spearheaded by Jacksonville Councilman Rory Diamond.

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    The goal is to pair veterans who may find themselves in crisis with other local veterans who can serve as mentors, and be there for them when they need it most. 

    The program also looks to mobilize all local resources to help veterans who may be suffering. 

    We spoke to Daniel Bean of Mission United, a soon to be unveiled arm of United Way tasked with pairing veterans with local case managers, about why local relationships can have more impact. 

    "If the veteran is reaching out to an operator on a phone, we're going to be less likely to help that veteran survive that crisis," said Bean, Mission United advisory council chairperson 

    Armstrong said he's relieved to know a local effort is underway and feels not enough has been done nationally. 

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