Crestview couple continues mission helping veterans one year after son takes own life

CRESTVIEW, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It's been one year since we spoke to Rick and Rebecca Winkler. The grieving parents had just lost their son to suicide three weeks before and mentioned his final message on social media, a reference to veteran suicide.

Twelve months removed, Rick said he's learned a lot about those statistics.

“Twenty-two [veterans] a day to be honest with you, is just a number,” Rick said. “No one knows if that's the real number or not. Myself, I actually think it's a lot higher than that. The reason why is they come up with that 22 through people who they know that had PTSD that died from it.”

He said there's many veterans who won't admit they have a problem because of the stigma, something that needs to be removed.

“They're still normal people, they just need to find coping skills to function with.”

On the VA, Rebecca said though the Trump White House has promised reform, the solutions need to start at the bottom.

“There are so many problems that are from the bottom level up that it's hard to even imagine how long it'd take to flow down and actually get to the men and women that need it. It seems backwards," she said.

In the meantime, the family has taken their own steps by building Drew’s foundation Winkler's Wish from a Facebook page to holding get-togethers called peer meetings.

“Bringing together veterans where we can sit around, we can talk with one another and understand each other,” Rick said. “It might be a night where we sit around and talk about what's happening. You know, or we might start telling war stories. It's like family, when you go over for Thanksgiving dinner. It's not scheduled. It's people hanging out you know, and being a family.”

The next peer meeting will be held on Saturday, June 24th at 119 Duggan Avenue, Crestview, Florida. For more information, visit Winkler's Wish on Facebook, or e-mail winklerswish@gmail.com.