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SAR Flag Raising Ceremony at American Legion Post 336

USMC LCpl Michael Blanco

SAR flag raising ceremony at American Legion Post 336

SAR is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness for the suicide epidemic among military veterans and their families. Air Force veteran Kevin Hertell is its creator and president. In 2016, he learned of the tragedy that had befallen his cousin, Air Force veteran Robert Dean, when he died by suicide. This was the moment that Kevin learned about the issue of the prevalence of suicide among the veteran community.

The American Legion Post 336 has partnered with SAR to help spread awareness of this epidemic and create a space for remembrance. On April 23, they held a flag raising ceremony where the SAR flag was raised for the first time at an American Legion post. This particular ceremony was in honor of Michael Blanco, who is one of Our Mates.

Our Mates are the name-tags of over 219 veterans who have died by suicide. SailAhead brings Our Mates with us wherever we go to honor them, raise awareness, and keep their memories alive.

The suicide rate for military veterans is 26 per 100,000 individuals, which is more than double the national average. Veterans make up 8% of the population, but they account for 18% of all suicides in the United States.

This flag will help to create awareness and bring attention to the issue of veteran suicide. It is a reminder that we must do more to support our veterans and their families. We must work together to end this epidemic.

Michael Blanco

Michael Blanco

Michael was born May 7, 1991. He ended his life on Monday, February 15, 2010 at almost 19 years of age.Michael was the proverbial sheepdog always protecting the sheep from the wolves.

What stands out most to all who knew him best, and loved him most, was his amazing energy and infectious smile. Michael was that person who lit up every room as soon as he walked in and he somehow managed to make every person feel so special and loved. Michael's motto was to live life to the fullest and even though his life may have been cut short far too soon, he definitely lived every day with love, light, happiness and friends and family.

Babylon Yacht Club Honoring USMC LCpl Michael Blanco

SailAhead has partnered with the Babylon Yacht Club to create a new tradition in the world of sailing on the south shore of Long Island. Working together, SailAhead and the Babylon Yacht Club take dozens of veterans sailing every year in honor of Michael. At each event, Michael's family speaks about his life, and aspirations, and offers hope to any veteran who might experience suicidal thoughts.

Michael Blanco is honored by Paul Martinez
Portrait of Michael Blanco held by US Army Ranger Paul Martinez

Skippers from Babylon YC generously donate their time, and sailing expertise to veterans and gold star families.

SailAhead's mission is to provide healing through sailing for military veterans and their families who have been impacted by war. We believe that the experience of being on the water can offer a sense of peace and calm, and provide an opportunity for veterans to connect with others who have shared similar experiences.

Sean Duclay, Our Mates, Bruce Blanco, Donna Blanco
Sean with Michael Blanco's Parents, Bruce and Donna, talking about him during the ceremony at the Babylon Yacht Club

Sailing can be seen as a holistic therapy, and it can be particularly effective in fighting symptoms of post traumatic stress, and depression. Click here to read our blog post about how sailing can affect mental health.

For more information about SAR, visit:


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