Members of the mounted NYPD unit will escort veterans on a 20-mile horseback ride through Manhattan on Saturday to raise awareness about military suicides – back after a year-long hiatus against COVID, officials said.
“I think it’s good for everyone’s morale that we get back to normal and get to actually see each other and do these events,” said Assistant Inspector Barry Gelbman, Mounted Unit Commander. NYPD. “I know they were very disappointed last year. “
The annual “Trail to Zero” journey represents the 20 veterans who commit suicide on average each day – and the journey’s goal of reaching zero suicide, officials said.
Gelbman, riding his NYPD horse Fantan, will be one of a dozen officers accompanying the six veterans and two support riders of BraveHearts, an equine program designed to help veterans return to civilian life. BraveHearts is sponsoring the event.
Gelbman said he’s involved in the program because he thinks horses have a calming effect on everyone.
“Anyone in a high-pressure occupation de-stresses when they are in the presence of animals,” said Gelbman.
The majority of the officers who volunteer to help on the trail are either veterans or still serving military personnel.
This includes Lt. David Monzon, 40, an active U.S. Army First Class Sergeant, who served in Iraq in 2009. Monzon, who will ride Montana, looks forward to welcoming the other veterans in his third year with the path.
The fellowship and fellowship camaraderie associated with the hike is a “good bonding experience,” he said, adding that the ride is “very heartwarming.”
“I would say the easiest part of my day is riding a horse,” he said. “You can forget about all your problems. ”
Gelbman said the 9/11 terrorist attacks also played a role in the race.
“The significance of New York City is that the 9/11 attacks were the catalyst for many of these veterans who enlisted in the military. Said Gelbman.
“So for them getting to Ground Zero and coming back to Central Park is very important,” he said. “A lot of them have never been to New York, this is their first trip here, and going to see the memorial and see the Freedom Tower is, you know, a once in a lifetime experience.”
Meggan Hill-McQueeney, president / COO of BraveHearts, said the event was also a way to reach vets.
“Trail to zero, as a mission together, brings together a community of veterans with a similar cause, a similar mindset to reach out and save their siblings who are in situations that they maybe were. to be once, ”he said.
The NYPD has seen an increase in suicides among its members in recent years and officials have said the ride helps members who participate.
Typically, four to five NYPD officers kill themselves each year. But 10 officers committed suicide in 2019, prompting the department under former commissioner James O’Neill to introduce changes, such as allowing officers in crisis to keep their badges even when handing over their firearms to de-stigmatize requests for aid.
There were four NYPD suicides in 2020. In September, three NYPD agents reportedly committed suicide this year.
The NYPD has also provided guidance to cops going through tense situations in an attempt to stem suicides, said Deputy Inspector Mark Wachter of the NYPD’s Health and Welfare Section.
“What we have is a critical incident debriefing,” he said. “So in this case, every day we bring officers exposed to traumatic crime scenes, crash investigations where there are fatalities, even when they have to perform CPR on a gunshot victim. We bring them in and sit them down with a service psychologist and a member of our employee support team.