Young veteran honored with suicide awareness bench

Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 8:42 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - People gathered at Parkersburg City Park for the unveiling of a bench installed in honor of a Chris Charlton, a young veteran who died by suicide.

Among the speakers that came was Charlton’s mom, Diane Cranfield.

There she stood, mic in hand, next to a bench that reads ‘You’re never alone,’ followed by the National Suicide Awareness Hotline number.

She said, “I remember that night, standing in the front yard of his house and I said I’ve always been able to fix everything but I can’t fix this. And that’s been one of the hardest things to accept...,”

Her son Chris Charlton died by suicide two years ago. He served in the marine corps and lived a life defined by caring for others.

Cranfield remembered,“He loved his family. He loved having everyone together. He loved taking in the underdog, those who didn’t have friends, and make them feel loved and wanted...he was there for everyone.”

Cranfield is now a suicide awareness advocate. It was her own suicide attempt that propelled her into action.

“It helped me to understand things so much better - people that were in that situation...and feeling that way...and so...having that understanding can better help people,” she said.

Cranfield hopes that the bench acts as a light for people who need it.

She said, “If someone is walking by and they’re in a bad place...they’re depressed, they’ve just had a bad day, whatever the situation may be and they need to talk to someone and they glance over and the first thing they see is ‘you’re never alone’ and the National Suicide Awareness Foundation phone number...if it saves just one life, it’s completely worth all of it.”

Dedication speaker and suicide awareness advocate Jackie Smith hopes events like these will make it easier for people to talk about suicide.

She said, “You know, everyone thinks they have to hide things and sweep it under the proverbial rug and you don’t. And we need to get people to not be afraid to say suicide or talk about suicide and talk about how they really feel.”

If you are worried about someone, there are ways you can help. Scott’s advice is simple.

“Be with them. That’s the big thing. Don’t just say ‘hey I’m thinking about you’ and ‘I’m praying for you’ and just walk away - and that may mean staying with them for a day or two.”

For more advice on what to do if someone you know is suicidal or if you are suicidal yourself, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

You can also go to for more information.

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