Sioux Falls native Maj. Christopher Mercado native Celebrated for Excellent Acts

Celebrating Acts of Excellence, One Act at a Time

The Acts of Excellence program connects us with individuals and organizations who are building a culture of excellence in South Dakota, one act at a time.

Please join us and area inductees to celebrate this Act of Excellence on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 from 4:30 to 6 pm at Sanford Health’s Imagentics Building in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. See all of the event details here:

Creating a Lifeline for Military Veterans

Image of Operation Zero mobile app logo

A Sioux Falls native and graduate of the University of South Dakota is a key player in the development of Objective Zero, a mobile app designed to help military veterans who struggle with thoughts of suicide. Maj. Christopher Mercado recently received the 2017 Military Times Service Member of the Year for the U.S. Army in recognition of his leadership on Objective Zero. He was honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in July. “It means the world to me, it’s humbling,’’ Mercado said in a news release circulated by the Marketing, Communications and University Relations at USD. “I’m not entirely convinced I deserve the recognition. It’s been a team effort from the beginning, so this is really about the hard work of the entire Objective Zero team.’’ Objective Zero is a mobile app that instantly connects veterans in need to fellow veterans, current service members and concerned citizens. The program is intended to counter the high rate of suicide among military veterans. Mercado says younger veterans are comfortable with technology, and the anonymous nature of the Objective Zero app is intended to make it easier for veterans to reach out for help. “In the military, there’s a belief that asking for help about these issues is a sign of weakness. It’s not,’’ he said. “The app is anonymous and provides tools to reconnect veterans with the civilian population. It’s a judgment-free zone.’’ He cites statistics that show 20 veterans and one active military member commit suicide every day. Veterans of the Vietnam War era comprise the largest population at risk for suicide, he said, but the highest percentage of veterans taking their lives are younger, from the “Operation Enduring Freedom’’ era. Mercado is a 1998 graduate of Washington High School in Sioux Falls and earned his army commission at USD. He served five tours of duty overseas. During graduate studies at Georgetown University, Mercado took a course that involved taking existing technology and using it for new purposes. That’s where he and a group of classmates developed the idea for the mobile app. When someone opens the app, they see a map of people closest to them who are available to talk or provide comfort through message, video or phone call.

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