The Trenches at Home: An Epidemic of Veteran Suicide
In November of 2009, I was one of the member spokespeople for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s new social network Community of Veterans. It is a place online for prior service members to congregate online privately. I was one of many IAVA brought to New York City that week, including the late Clay Hunt. I did not know Clay before then and we didn’t communicate afterwards. On March 31, 2011 Clay killed himself inside his apartment in Houston, Texas.
Earlier this month, Clay’s mother Susan Selke testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, pleading with the members to take action to stop the epidemic of suicide which plagues the community of veterans. According to The Washington Post, Ms. Selke said “If there is any emergency that we need to address, this is it, right now.”
On July 10 the chair of the HVAC, Florida Republican Jeff Miller, submitted H.R. 5059, the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.” This law will build on legislation from 2007 that established crisis hotlines for suicidal veterans and was supposed to increase training for the VA. The particulars of the new bill are still murky, however Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh told MSNBC, “If we don’t get it right this time, shame on us.”
Yet, while veteran service organizations like IAVA lobby the government to keep their promise to U.S. veterans, the solutions to veteran suicide are not limited to federal or local governments. The real answer to this problem lies with neighbors, friends, and family of veterans who are struggling with life post-war.
People love to show up on parade days for veterans, shaking hands and buying dinner or drinks for anyone in uniform they can find. It’s on the other three-hundred-and-sixty-odd days where anyone can make a difference. Call your representatives and demand they do something to help veterans. Also, donate money or, even better, your time to local veteran service organizations. Perhaps then, once the epidemic of suicide is conquered, it will be our turn to thank you for your service.
Photo by Beverly via Flickr