LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Memorial Day, for many, means the start of summer, with parades, barbeques, and a day off from work.

But for the men and women who served in the military, Memorial Day means something totally different.

FOX 56 News spoke with Rocco Besednjak, co-founder of Camp Hero Kentucky. Its main focus is mental health advocacy, support, and education for veterans and first responders.

He said he wants to clear up one thing right off the bat: veterans have their own day, and that’s Veterans Day. Memorial Day is meant to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice—the ones who didn’t come back home.

Many servicemembers, active or former, know a fellow servicemember who died in the line of duty. Memorial Day can be a trigger day for vets.

Besednjak said on those trigger days, veterans may isolate themselves and stay alone with their thoughts, which, as you can imagine, isn’t the healthiest.

Veteran suicide rates are much higher than those of civilians. The CDC reported an average of 17 suicides a day among veterans.

Besednjak recommends checking in on the veterans in your life. A simple text goes a long way toward letting them know someone cares about them and how they’re doing.

He also encourages veterans to check in on their fellow vets.

“No one gets vets like other vets,” Besednjak said. “So when you reach out to other veterans to check in on them, say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ They’re more than likely going to tell you something, but not good, you know, and because they know they understand it. That’s one big thing with Camp Hero—getting a bunch of the vets and stuff together—they understand each other. It doesn’t matter if they just met each other.”

Besednjak stressed the importance of veterans finding something peaceful to calm their minds. It could be meditation, hiking, or listening to music. Something that makes those hard days a little bit easier.

Memorial Day can bring an increase in traumatic memories for veterans but also a heavy burden of survivor’s guilt. They’ll try to make themselves feel better through self-medication, whether that be via the use of drugs or alcohol, or even go a step further and take their own life.

Besednjak said he knows what those low moments can feel like, and the best thing a vet can do is talk about what they’re going through, even if it takes a while to find the right person to speak with.

“I’m glad I didn’t give up because I wouldn’t be here right now,” Besednjak said. “I knew there was some help out there. I just had to find it. Now we just need to create more resources for the people and eliminate those barriers so they can get that help that they need without having to jump through hoops.”


If you come across a veteran during your Memorial Day festivities, Besednjak encourages you to consider saying “Thank you for your service” or “How are you doing today?” instead of wishing them a “Happy Memorial Day,” as not all service members consider it to be a happy day.

To learn more about Camp Hero Kentucky, visit campheroky.org.