‘The Brandon Act’ implemented in honor of Peoria native
Brandon Caserta’s parents worked for years to get the law passed after their son took his own life while serving in the Navy
PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Ahead of Memorial Day, a Valley family is shining a light on an issue it says is forgotten about all too often: the mental health of our military servicemembers.
After their 21-year-old son sadly took his own life while serving in the Navy, Teri and Patrick Caserta have worked tirelessly to change that through a law named after their son. The Brandon Act just went into effect this month. Brandon’s parents have made it their mission to prevent this from happening to another family.
Just a few weeks ago, they flew to Washington, D.C., as The Brandon Act was implemented after it was signed initially signed into law in 2021. According to CNN, that’s because the Department of Defense had to figure out how to fulfill the requirements. The law requires military services to provide mental health evaluations to service members and to allow them to ask for help confidentially and without fear of retaliation. The family says Brandon was bullied while serving in Virginia.
The Casertas say it’s frustrating it took this long, but they had to pour their grief into real, legislative change. “It was a relief to be honest with you,” Teri told Arizona’s Family this week. “That we can take a small break right now because we have been fighting since 2019.”
“Going through all of this was worth it because there is nothing like saving a life,” Patrick said.
While The Brandon Act may be in effect, Teri and Patrick say their work is far from over. They have created The Brandon Caserta Foundation in their son’s honor. Among other ways to give back, they hope to raise money to donate to families who may need to visit their children going through a mental health crisis.
“I wish we would have jumped in the car or taken a flight out there,” Teri said. “His last week alive was horrible and I wish we would have been there to be his support system because apparently his friends in the command were not there for them.”
The Caserta family has also set up a scholarship to carry on Brandon’s legacy at Arizona State University. That is where Patrick attended after serving our country for more than 20 years. They plan on doubling it every year. They say more than 70 people applied in the first year and it’s specifically for the College of Health Solutions.
Both Teri and Patrick smile when they talk about Brandon. “He was amazing. Always had that bright smile. He was funny, goofy, he helped anyone who he felt needed help,” Teri said.
According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Defense, “fewer service members died by suicide in 2021 than in 2020 — 519 to 582.” However, Teri and Patrick think that should be zero.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, there is help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides support 24 hours a day by dialing 988.
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