Over 20 veterans each day are lost to us due to complications from wounds and injuries we cannot see. Suffering sustained as a result of their service and sacrifice causes 7,300 brave men and women to take their own lives each year. In the past 40+ years, since the end of the Vietnam War, we have lost more American heroes due to suicide than all foreign wars and conflicts in that time period combined. The Brothers of Harmonie Lodge No. 699 O.M. in Buffalo, New York were personally touched by this ongoing tragedy when one of their Masonic Brothers took his life while battling depression and post-traumatic stress. Captain Peter Schank took his life in 2017 at the age of 30. A veteran of three deployments to Afghanistan, Bro. Schank exemplified our Masonic ideals, dedicating his life to a balance of service and academic pursuits. He was a graduate of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Canisius College, both of Buffalo, NY.
In the end, support offered by friends and family were not enough, as Peter chose to end his pain after several years of intense struggle. Nearing the end of his life, Peter most heavily relied on his Masonic Brothers, as he found himself, at times, without shelter, or his next meal.
Those same Brothers have now come together to raise awareness of this national epidemic, tell Bro. Schank’s story, and begin efforts to destigmatize how psychological trauma is regarded in today’s society. Over the 2018 Memorial Day weekend, Harmonie Lodge sponsored two events in pursuit of these goals.
On May 26th, Captain Schank’s name was added in a ceremony to the Wall of Honor at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.
On May 28th, Spearheaded by Bro. Mark Donnelly, Ph. D., with the assistance of local veterans’ healthcare experts, outreach programs, media outlets, guest speakers, and the officers and members of Harmonie Lodge, a plan for a new permanent monument and memorial project was unveiled. Called The Battle Within, it will serve as a reminder for residents and visitors to Buffalo’s resurgent waterfront district and the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, that our military heroes lost to suicide are not forgotten and deserve a public place of honor and distinction. Construction on the memorial is planned to take place later this year.
The unveiling ceremony was well attended by media and the community, along with our Deputy Grand Master and Grand Line. In addition to Bro. Mark Donnelly, Ph. D., guest speakers throughout the weekend included Right Wor. Daniel J. Di Natale, a Trustee of Harmonie Lodge, Bro. Derek LaClair, a close personal friend of Bro. Schank, W:. William B. Chapin II, Master-Elect of Harmonie Lodge, Bro. LTC Steven Bunch, veteran, and member of Akron Lodge, and Jill Murray, Care Line Manager of the WNY VA Hospital. R:.W:. Richard J. Kessler, Deputy Grand Master, gave moving closing remarks that included the sharing of a past personal tragedy that illuminated the multi-generational effects of this epidemic striking our veterans.
More information regarding construction and a ceremonial dedication will be forthcoming. Progress updates and more information about The Battle Within project will be available by visiting www.Harmonie699.org.