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Preventing Veteran Suicides


A story on Change.org this week deeply affected our team, and we think it's important to share.

The story is of Sergeant First Class Lance, who joined the Army when he was eighteen and served for nearly two decades, most recently in Iraq. He was a year and half away from being able to retire with full benefits. Lance regularly told his wife that he loved the Army, its community, camaraderie and discipline. It was the career that he was meant to be doing.

Then, after returning from his second tour of duty in Iraq, Lance stood in front of his wife and children, put a gun to his head, and took his own life.

Stories like Sergeant First Class Lance's are, tragically, not uncommon. Suicide rates among soldiers are the highest they have been in nearly three decades. There are months when there are more suicides among soldiers than troops killed in the line of duty, with an average of five soldiers a day trying to take their own lives.

In trying to explain her husband's situation, Lance's wife says that he was driven into deep depression after his second tour, and her attempts to reach out to the Army for help didn't get him the treatment he needed. "He wasn't afraid of dying," she says. "He was afraid of living with all the images he had seen in Iraq."

Changemaker Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), writes on Change.org this week that veterans returning from wars face a new battle — the transition from combat to civilian life. That transition comes with many challenges, including mental health injuries and an ineffectual disability benefits system.

But perhaps the biggest challenge is the disconnect between veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and the general public. Many Americans today have no personal connection to these wars other than what they see on television, as less than one percent of the country has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. One consequence is that the burden of war falls squarely on the shoulders of just a few — veterans who give everything for their country, and their families, who are often the forgotten casualties of war.

A groundswell of activists at IAVA.org is working to build a new veterans rights movement, energizing people across the country to take action on behalf of veterans through volunteering, giving and raising awareness. You can join them in this fight here, and help ensure that those who have sacrificed so much get the care and benefits they deserve whenever they return home. That includes veterans like Sergeant First Class Lance.

This article is from http://www.change.org




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