Man who fought for son’s purple heart has died

Howard Berry died of cancer on June 17th, having spent the last seven years of his life working tirelessly to get a purple heart for his son, Ssgt. Joshua Berry. Howard Berry didn’t succeed in that effort. However, he did succeed this past winter in getting Ohio to become the first state in America to acknowledge veteran suicide by establishing a Veterans Suicide Memorial Mile on Interstate 71.

>> RELATED: Part of I-71 NB to be designated Veteran Suicide Memorial Mile after HB 276 is signed

Ssgt. Joshua Berry died by suicide in 2013, after suffering from depression, PTSD, and physical injuries during the mass shooting at the Ft. Hood, Texas Army post in 2009. That shooting by an Army Major killed 13 soldiers and injured more than 30 others. Berry dislocated his shoulder when he dove behind a desk for cover after warning others in the building to get down as the bullets struck the building’s windows.

His dad said Ssgt. Berry came home from Ft. Hood a different person. He took his life at 36 years old--one of at least seven suicides in the wake of Ft. Hood.

Two years after Ssgt. Berry’s death, the Army awarded purple hearts to the Ft. Hood survivors who sustained gunshots, but not to Ssgt. Berry.

Howard Berry continued trying to get the medal for his son’s grave and also to get full medical benefits for victims and their families by pressuring Congress to pass the Ft. Hood Heroes Act. It would label the massacre “domestic terrorism” instead of “workplace violence,” as it’s been deemed. Berry succeeded in getting 225 members of the U.S. House to sign a resolution in support of the bill, but Congress never voted on the bill. To date, it has not been reintroduced.

In the meantime, Howard Berry went to work placing flags on veterans’ graves and in 2018 started Flags for Forgotten Soldiers in 2018 to raise awareness of the number of soldiers who die by their own hands. His efforts to make sure they weren’t forgotten made the success of getting a mile marker to recognize them that much sweeter. That marker is on I-71 in Warren County between markers 22 and 23.

Howard Berry’s sister, Lynn Berry Brown, vows to continue his mission of Flags for Forgotten Soldiers. Other friends plan to continue fighting for the Ft. Hood Heroes Act and for a purple heart for Ssgt. Joshua Berry.

Howard Berry was 64 years old.

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