Skip to content
Mississippi Arts: Mississippi Mom...

Mississippi Arts: Mississippi Mom turned author utilizes loss for life of veterans

By: Courtney Ingle - March 13, 2024

  • Madison resident Susan Cleland, a mother who tragically lost her son to veteran suicide, has penned her thoughts and emotions in a memoir.

In pursuing a life dedicated to service, veterans often find themselves drawn to something greater than their individual selves. They willingly embrace the challenges of deployment, war, frequent relocations, and prolonged separation from their families as part of their sacrifice.

However, the experiences witnessed during their service often become unspeakable burdens on their minds and souls. For many, this burden becomes overwhelming, leading to tragic consequences such as veteran suicide. Madison resident Susan Cleland, a mother who tragically lost her son, Michael Ryan Vinson, to such circumstances, has penned her thoughts and emotions in a memoir titled Mission Vigilant: A Mother’s Crusade to Stem the Tide of Veteran Suicide.

Michael, known affectionately as Mike by his friends, was a dedicated serviceman with a compassionate heart and a profound love for people. Cleland’s memoir not only expresses the pain and anger she has endured since her son’s passing but also sheds light on the community of mothers who share similar experiences and her unwavering faith in God.

“Journaling was always therapy for me,” Cleland shared. “When Michael died, I kept going with journaling, and I started to notice how changes were happening within me during that process.”

Motivated to share her journey with others in the same situation, Cleland sought the assistance of her friend, local author Sheyre Green.

“There are others who need to know they’re not alone, and sharing those stories can be therapeutic,” Cleland explained.

The stories within her book extend beyond her personal experiences, encompassing the testimonies of other mothers who have faced the heartbreaking reality of losing loved ones to suicide.

Reflecting on the struggles portrayed in her book, Cleland sees how every story is its own, in its own unique way, but overall, there’s one theme. Grief is a journey, not a start and end event. 

Through journaling and seeking therapy, Cleland witnessed the growth of her faith in God. Cleland credits her unyielding faith for providing her with strength and support. She acknowledges the heartbreak those who lack such faith face and underscores the importance of finding solace during these challenging times.

Since writing Mission Vigilant, Cleland has had a lot of feedback from others in the same or similar situation.

“A lot of people have thanked me for having something, a tool to use either for themselves or someone that has gone through these struggles,” said Cleland. “They can have it almost like a study guide. I’ve had people just really just want to share it with everybody.”

As the book is being shared, notoriety for Cleland’s mission through the nonprofit Mission Vigilant For The 22 is gaining notoriety. The “22” refers to the statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Mission Vigilant For the 22 aims to provide support, mental health resources, and other outreach services to military veterans, law-enforcement, first responders, and their families through access to a network of various counselors, health professionals, and partnering organizations.

Cleland has been nominated for the Veteran Heroes in Service award through Volunteer Mississippi’s Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE)  awards. Per GIVE, “This award recognizes an individual or group that has designed program(s) or services to meet the needs of military-connected families or individuals. The exemplary service will show respect for the unique challenges of military-connected families and individuals. The awardee demonstrates cross-sector engagement, including significant input from those served.”

Cleland’s book, Mission Vigilant: A Mother’s Crusade to Stem the Tide of Veteran Suicide, has also been a recipient of the 2024 Bronze Medal Illumination Award, in the category of Biography Memoir and Personal Struggle. 

“There are more stories out there,” said Cleland. “And there are more stories to be told.” 

While there’s no timeline for another book, Cleland said Mission Vigilant is quickly spreading awareness regarding veteran suicide. 

“There’s a documentary in the works, about Mission Vigilant, about Michael, his relationships, who he was,” said Cleland. “And it will be shown at Malco (Madison).” 

For more information about Mission Vigilante For the 22, visit the website. Mission Vigilant: A Mother’s Crusade to Stem the Tide of Veteran Suicide can be purchased on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and Lemuria Books. 

About the Author(s)
author profile image

Courtney Ingle

Courtney Ingle is a veteran journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience in print, radio, and digital media. Courtney brings her talents to bear at Magnolia Tribune to cover family-centered education and to elevate those unique aspects of Mississippi culture.