Veteran suicide rate too high

Another Veterans Day has come and gone.

On Nov. 11, I was out traveling the area to different events I had been invited to. The day was just awesome.

However, the day only showed the polished, glittery side of the holiday – at least from what I saw.

Little was mentioned to the epidemic that is quietly sweeping the country; that is of service member suicides. The current daily average is 22 veterans a day. In a year’s time that is 8,030 lives needlessly lost – far more than the population of Houston.

A number of years back the average was as high as 31, but it dropped to 27 and now hovers at 22. This does not mean that there is a successful treatment program, it just means there is a smaller pool.

As yet, I’ve seen or heard little investigation into the cause. Then a short while ago numbers started clicking together in my mind – 75 to 90-percent of all the deployed troops are National Guardsman and reservists. These units seem to mostly be support units such as cooks, clerks, mechanics, etc.

The majority of their military service has been basic training, AIT (advance individual training) and the 16 hours a month during drill weekend between various task and duties they train in their military occupational skill.

Often in theater, there are never enough MPs or infantry, and these guardsmen are pressed into duties outside their training area, such as convoy escorts.

The trinity of community, state and federals have failed these service members by not providing the level of preparation and training need fully required. Afterward when they return home, the federals turn their backs to them (we’ve all heard of the VA and its abuses).

The state is unprepared to assist our minutemen. So all they have left is the community that has no idea what to look for as warning signs. These kids and most of them are kids slid deeper into their personal pits of despair, drowning without a support net of any kind. The few who get into the VA are over loaded with drugs, which not only is a band-aid, but the meds cause more damage than the affliction.

So what to do? The community is the last step for these volunteers. We let them know we are available to sit and listen. Let them see that people do care and are concerned about their well being.

When I made this presentation on Nov. 11, someone thought I was asking for money. No, I’m asking for involvement, time and some small bit of dedication. Reach out.

At my shop (on Lilly Road) I welcome any veteran who stops in to talk, sit in silence or even take a hammer to a piece of defunct equipment if it helps. A small amount of time can do far more than a cash contribution.

Monthly meetings of the American Legion are the second Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the legion hall next to Pizza Hut. Generally pizza and soft drinks are available.

Houston resident Keith Ford is a retired infantryman and an amateur writer whose work has appeared in publications around the world. Email kf4tap@yahoo.com.

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