ROCKWALL, TX – September 28, 2020 — The Rockwall and Rowlett communities officially dedicated the State Highway 66 bridge as the “Heroes Memorial Bridge” this past weekend. Third Watch LE Motorcycle Club welcomed state and city officials, citizens and patriots to the dedication event on Sept. 26, capped off by their 2nd Annual Hands Across the Bridge.
The campaign to rename the bridge connecting Rockwall and Rowlett is the work of a long list of local and state veterans groups, public servants and patriotic supporters of the Walk the Bridge initiative. Since 2018, these groups have conducted a symbolic 22-mile walk across the bridge on the 22nd of each month, raising awareness of the on-average 22 veterans and first responders across the nation who commit suicide due to Post-Traumatic Stress each day.
The ceremony invited featured guest speakers to share some words on the historic day, followed by the unveiling of the Heroes Bridge sign.
Texas Police Commissioner Rob Kyker had a compelling message for all veterans and first responders out there suffering in silence: it’s okay to not be okay.
“Our veterans and first responders see death and destruction every day,” Kyker said. “They come home from the line of duty and they can’t rest. They go back and re-live the same thing over and over again, and after a while it takes its toll. So they have to go get help, because they’re told it’s not okay. But always remember this: it’s okay to not be okay.”
“Too many people experience the stigma from Post-traumatic stress,” said Rowlett Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian. “We all know that people with PTSD may be particularly reluctant to seek help for many reasons, including being embarrassed to discuss the problem and being afraid of the consequences of seeking help. That is why events like this and this initiative are so important: to let our veterans and our first responders know that they are not alone, and there is help available.”
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Allen West, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, rounded out the lineup of guest speakers with some impactful words on how we can all be the symbolic bridge for those on the front lines, who regularly face traumatic situations most civilians rarely experience.
“I look forward to the day when we’re not witnessing on average 22 of our brave men and women, who have been that bridge for us over troubled waters, taking their own lives,” West said. “But we’re not being that bridge for them, when the troubled waters come into their lives. Our challenge for each and every one of us is to be that symbolic bridge; to help our men and women who have stood in the gap for us, in a time when we needed it the most. Let’s be the bridge for them, over these troubled waters that they see in their lives.”
Attendees witnessed a flyover by the Dallas-Fort Worth Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, and then joined hands across the Heroes Bridge to conclude the event.
Organizations leading the effort to have the bridge renamed and raise awareness of suicide among veterans and first responders include The Life Message Veterans Resource and Outreach Center; Third Watch LE Motorcycle Club; 99% Radio Network; Blue H.E.L.P.; Terry Fisher American Legion Post 117 of Rockwall; Disabled American Veterans Texas Chapter 137; Lake Ray Hubbard Detachment of the Marine Corps League; Rockwall Band of Brothers, Sisters & Friends; City of Rockwall; City of Rowlett; Rockwall County and Dallas County.
These groups are also working to establish a Heroes Memorial Park as a place of honor and reflection for veterans and first responders.
Story and photos by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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