Guest Editorial: Veteran Suicide – An Urgent Call to Action

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.” – George Washington

I am a former United States Marine and Executive Director of Twenty22Many. Twenty22Many is a private non-profit organization focused on assisting Veterans living with PTSD. It was created to bring awareness to the widespread Veteran suicide epidemic.

Currently, an estimated 22 Veterans take their lives daily based on a Department of Veterans Affairs report released in 2012. It was the discovery of this report that changed my life forever and set me on a direct course, using all means necessary, to save Veterans.

A 2014 Department of Defense report states that the United States lost a total of 55 troops in both hostile and non-hostile events that year. According to the same report, 269 suicide deaths were among Active Duty service members; 19,000 Veterans attempted suicide – 8,000 were successful. Yet, these numbers are not headlines.

What is happening to Veterans is not a secret. I have traveled to Washington, D.C. three times during the past two years, and most recently to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session, spreading the word to all willing to listen about this epidemic.

Do I now live in an America that readily accepts 8,000 Veteran Suicides a year – more than 600 a month, 154 a week, and 22 a day?

The US is failing our heroes on a grand scale. Just this week, despite bipartisan support (233-189) in both the Senate and the House, the proposed Amendment, which would have allowed the Veterans Administration to prescribe Cannabis in legal Medical Cannabis States, got handily blocked again. Why is the Congressional Leadership blocking this positive change from happening? Any way you want to look at this, 22 daily suicides is the definition of a broken system.

Recently, we witnessed a sit in at our nation’s Capitol prompted by the massacre of 49 Americans in an Orlando nightclub. An absolute horrific incident on every level. However, since that shooting on June 12 th , we have lost more than 264 American Heroes (Veterans) to suicide. Again, why is this not a news story?

Since 2009 when studies began collecting data, we have lost 56,210 to Veteran suicide. This is nearly the same number of Americas lost in the entire Vietnam War.

I believe it is time for our nation’s leaders to declare war on Veteran Suicide. It could not hurt and would only help by bringing awareness to this a very real Civil Rights issue. This struggle has been going on for years, and I see no end in sight.

Veterans like me will not sit quietly. Until we get news outlets that are brave enough to talk about these very real very large numbers, we will not be successful in this fight. We cannot let Americans get complacent with this issue.

I urge you to contact your Congressional representatives today and demand action be taken now to stem the rising tide of Veteran Suicides.

For additional information on our work, please visit our website at http://www.twenty22many.org/

By Patrick Seifert