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Cost of freedom recognized at EMS Veterans Day Program

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Ellsworth Middle School held its Veterans Day program on Thursday, Nov. 8, and recognized veterans who've lost their lives or normalcy after serving over seas. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 8
Guest speaker Jim Osterman shared the realities of veteran suicide rates at Ellsworth Middle School's Veterans Day program and shared how he's created Veterans Skydive for Life to help combat veteran suicide. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 8
Ellsworth Middle School's Veterans Day Program ended with the colors being retired. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 8
The Ellsworth Middle School choir and band performed at the school's Veterans Day Program on Thursday, Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson5 / 8
Karissa Kollbaum and Noah Matzek served as flag folders at the Ellsworth Middle School Veterans Day Program on Thursday, Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson6 / 8
Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson7 / 8
Veterans were honored at the Ellsworth Middle School Veterans Day program on Thursday, Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson8 / 8

Veterans' hardships don't always end once they return home from serving their country.

Jim Osterman, a Navy veteran and creator of Veterans Skydive for Life, shared the realities of such hardships and how they too often lead to veteran suicide at the Ellsworth Middle School Veterans Day Program on Thursday, Nov. 8.

The Navy veteran has lost several friends to suicide and even contemplated taking his own life when suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Osterman shared that on average, 20 veterans succumb to suicide every day. To help combat that alarming statistic, Osterman has traveled to multiple skydiving drop zones across the country in an effort to bring awareness to veteran suicide.

"The big plan is we want to take veterans skydiving," Osterman said. "Not much more can put a smile on your face than jumping out of a plane."

Osterman's speech was met with applause and a realization that veterans don't only make sacrifices while in service.

"Every one of us knows a veteran; we know a man or a woman who has served," Osterman said. "Reach out to them. Talk to them. It doesn't matter if they're suicidal or not."

The program also included speeches from Brooklyn Gabert and RaeAnna Smith, a remembrance ceremony for Pierce County's deceased veterans of the Gulf War Era and performances from the middle school choir and band.

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