DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - A longstanding tradition of honoring local veterans at the Brown County Fair continues Sunday. This year's Veterans Appreciation Day pays tribute to non-combat and peacetime vets.
But there's a priority at this year's fair to reach veterans who are struggling emotionally.
"I gotta tell you Jeff, this is gonna be probably the biggest and best one we've ever had."> [Duration:0:05]
For more than a decade, Brown County Supervisor Bernie Erickson has helped organize Veteran's Appreciation Day at the Brown County Fair.
Along with free admission, a free raffle and a certificate honoring vets for their service, more than 15 vendors will be on hand this year offering veterans and their families assistance with benefits and services.
"Get out there and take a look. Browse the tables. Probably things you don't even realize that you're eligible for," County Supervisor Bernie Erickson said.
Brown County Veterans Service Officer Joe Aulik will have a table at the fair Sunday.
"The earlier we encounter them, the higher the success rate. Those who seek our services, have 50 percent more in benefits in their pockets," Aulik said.
Aulik is hoping to reverse a tragic, continuous trend of veterans committing suicide.
Since 2011, an average of 13 veterans commit suicide each month in Wisconsin. In Brown County, the average is 5 per year.
"I think the biggest thing we can do is to allow veterans, make them aware of the benefits and the help and the support that's there," he said.
Aulik said awareness of the services and benefits available are key -- and in his 20 years as a county veterans service officer, he's never lost a vet who's stepped foot in his office.
"They found us, they found the support group, they're getting hooked up to service immediately, and it avoids going down the road of self-medication, 'I'm alone, no one is there to help me,'" said Aulik.