By Garry M. Spotts, M.Div.
Men and women serve the U.S. and often return to civilian life with deep trauma. The trauma creates lasting emotional scars beyond that left upon their physical bodies. The
challenge is that many cannot see the wounds because they are embedded in their thoughts and hearts.
Veterans are, in fact, a vulnerable population. Despite many efforts to help vets reintegrate into society, the lasting impact of their experiences in the military can never be erased.
While many men and women find the skills and support in their communities, churches, and homes to cope with the challenges of reintegrating, some don’t.
The U.S. Veterans Administration reports that an average of 22 veterans dies of suicide each day. According to an Op/Ed article published by USA Today,
They’re killing themselves in a war of self-destruction that the United States is losing.
In August 2018 The Military Released a report according to USA Today which stated:
The total number of suicides for 2018. The 325 suicide deaths recorded for the year represented an increase of 40 compared with 2017. The increase was driven by a 25% increase in the Army and a 15% increase in the Marine Corps. That report did not estimate the rate of suicide by service nor did it include demographic data.
Among the report's findings:
· Among active-duty troops, the Marine Corps had the highest rate, with 31.4 suicides per 100,000 Marines. The Army had 24.8 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, the Navy had 20.7 suicides per 100,000 sailors, and the Air Force had 18.5 suicides per 100,000 airmen. The suicide rate for the Army National Guard was 30.6 suicides per 100,000 guardsmen.
· Troops who died by suicide were mostly enlisted, under the age of 30, male, and died by firearm.
· Among active-duty troops, firearms accounted for 60% of suicide deaths.
In light of reality, the VA is taking steps to turn the tide and save the lives of the women and men who gave their lives to serve the U.S.
Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said of suicide prevention that
"We cannot do this alone; we call on our community partners to join us in this effort."
"We will only be successful at preventing suicide if we break this work into actionable, manageable steps,"
On Veterans Day, you can begin by taking action in your community, in your home, and your church. It is not simply a day to remember the bravery and courage of those who have and will serve; it also a day to Act.
The U.S. has a standing military, all of whom are volunteers. Not one of the currently active or part-time military personnel were conscripted or drafted against their will by the government to serve. Their willingness to serve, is a call to the community to rise to the challenge of helping them.
Here are a few steps you can take to demonstrate and act upon your concern for those in your community and family who served.
Identify all the veterans in your church, family, and sphere of influence
Offer to connect those veterans with available resources to help them be healthier through ministries in your church, your website, and other outlets you control.
Host a mental health awareness campaign in your church, teaching members how to identify the signs of trouble and where to get help when needed.
Celebrate their service with a personal “thanks” or a community expression of gratitude for their service.