The bridge between Rowlett and Rockwall was renamed Heroes Bridge to bring awareness to veterans and first responders who have died by suicide.
In October 2018 the Rowlett Veterans Resource Center initiated Walk the Bridge where veterans walk a symbolic two miles once a month. Afterwards, the annual Hands Across the Bridge was created to recognize the family members. The Walk the Bridge was able to raise awareness through #walkthebridge and on its Facebook page. The movement was recognized by more than 3.7 million people internationally.
“We don’t want to glorify suicide but want to remember how a veteran or a first responder lived. Many of them have exemplary service records of their heroes and are heroes but succumb to effects of PTSI (post traumatic stress injury),” Director of Veterans Operations Brian Wilburn said. “We started the hands across the bridge, and our goal was eventually to span the whole length of the bridge.”
In September, the veterans decided to continue bringing awareness to first responders and veterans who died by suicide. Together, they were able to provide alternatives and solutions to suicide through certified counseling and training, seminars and peer support. To further bring awareness, veterans also renamed the Lake Ray Hubbard bridge, Heroes Bridge.
“We looked up our local politicians and said this is what we want to get done, and this is why,” Wilburn said. “They got on board with it, and last month we were able to have the name, which had no prior name named Heroes Memorial Bridge.”
In addition to the bridge being renamed in honor of veterans and first responders who died by suicide, the veterans also formed a foundation, Heroes Bridge Memorial Park. This would be the first memorial park in the nation that is specifically for suicide awareness through first responders and veterans, Wilburn said.
“We are working diligently actually, along with BlueHelp our partner, where we will bring an actual park, a place of memorial and remembrance, again not to glorify but for family members and veterans and first responders who have been affected,” Wilburn said. “The stigma that goes along with suicide- many police departments don’t recognize it as an on-the-job injury or a line of duty death. We intend to change that and intend to give them a place to come.”
The Heroes Memorial Bridge Park will bring a place for families, first responders and veterans to come and reflect. The next step will be fundraising for the park, purchase of the land and future development.
“It’ll be significant to Rowlett because there is no other place like this that exists currently in the United States,” Wilburn said. “Given that Rowlett is giving this to the country and even to the world. Suicide and PTSI affects veterans and first responders around the world, and Rowlett is going to want to get behind it because it is a big deal.”