Twenty-two pairs of boots sat empty as the sound of taps filled Bosco Student Plaza Tuesday afternoon as the Veteran Student Organization held a memorial for Jacob Horton, the K-State student who was found dead April 2.
The boots stood for the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day, Sarah Byarlay, junior in English and friend of Horton’s, said. One pair, standing on the table next to a photo of Horton, represented him. The other 21 were arranged in front of the table.
“That smile is the same smile you would always see on his face,” Byarlay said. “Every day, all day long.”
Justin Manford, president of the VSO and junior in economics, said the memorial was held so the university community could see that suicide is an issue.
“Seeing is believing,” Manford said.
Byarlay said suicide is an important issue, even if some people do not realize it.
“People are always saying, ‘Oh, well why do you always talk about suicide awareness? Like, why do we feel like we’re always listening to this?'” Byarlay said. “It’s because it’s relevant. (Horton) proves that it’s still relevant, and it’s going to continue to be relevant until we can step out and help all the people who need it.”
Byarlay said she wants people to remember that Horton was a person and not just count him among the number of veterans who commit suicide.
“It’s important to remember that people like Jake are friends, they’re not numbers,” Byarlay said. “Yes, he’s one of 22, but he’s a person. And we don’t want to lose any more friends.”
Manford said he did not know Horton personally but wishes he had.
“We’re a family here at K-State, and within that family is the veteran family … and we take family very seriously,” Manford said.
Byarlay said Horton first went to K-State Polytechnic for the pilot program but transferred to the main campus to be a teacher.
“He loved teaching children and talking to people,” Tom Harmon, president of the K-State Polytechnic Student Veterans Association, said. “He was a very good people person.”
Stephen Kucera, Student Governing Association senator and senior in music performance and accounting, said the university community needs to do a better job of being there for people who may need help.
“We need to help people feel safe, feel comfortable reaching out to someone,” Kucera said.
Jessica Van Ranken, student body president and junior in political science, ran for president with mental health as one of her three platforms. She said SGA should be better about promoting the available resources at K-State.
“I think SGA can work to promote the resources K-State provides and how students can get in touch with those resources to make sure that all students are aware of the resources,” Van Ranken said.