American Veteran Suicide Crisis Demands Ethical Leadership

January 24, 2018 Updated: January 24, 2018

Patriotism is expressed in many ways, but honoring the men and women who serve in our armed forces is the preeminent hallmark of love for one’s country.

Military service is a sacrifice that expresses devotion to our nation. This service deserves dignity, honor, and gratitude of all privileged to call America home.

America honors military service, and especially the ultimate sacrifice, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

But every day, we must have a profound respect for our military. Their sacrifices, service, and commitment are critical for safeguarding our democracy, freedom, and way of life.

American Veterans Deserve Dignity

The American flag is the sacred symbol of our nation and deserves our unwavering respect.

As our flag flies throughout our land, at schools, workplaces, parades, homes, landmarks, parks, and streets, it is a sacrosanct reminder of the sacrifices of our armed forces.

As we honor our flag, we are reminded to remember all our veterans, especially those who suffer from the trials caused by challenges during their service. We must have empathy that assists them in their time of need.

America’s veterans are experiencing a suicide crisis. We must respond with character, compassion, and commitment to alleviate their suffering.

A sense of immediate urgency to the veteran suicide crisis is the clarion call to America.

Veteran Suicide Tragedies: Time for Action

Although there are countless expressions of compassion by dedicated individuals in our veteran’s hospitals, there are well documented deficiencies.

These words, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, are therefore applicable to concerns with our veterans:

“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”

A few years ago, there was a shocking and well-documented medical scandal that scorched the conscience of America.

The travesty of treatment delays for veterans needing medical attention was a blistering commentary on the leadership crisis of America.

Although these published reports are no longer making headline news, the continual tragedies of treatment delays, compounded by veteran suicides must arouse our consciences.

America must respond with a heart of moral decency and not allow these injustices to continue.

Any injustice against our veterans in need of mental health treatment must spur the soul of America to action.

In one heartbreaking story, a veteran, Byron Wade Earles tried to commit suicide on Nov. 7, 2016 after a veteran’s administration hospital denied him admission.

Just two months later, Earles died by suicide on Jan. 6, 2017.

According to published reports, a mental health worker had turned him away not believing his claim of a suicide attempt.

His death highlights America’s crisis memorialized in a history of published reports of deficiencies at veteran’s hospitals.

In another tragic story, Peter Kaiser, a 76-year-old veteran committed suicide in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, New York. His suicide took place after allegedly being denied service at the center.

A published report quoted an anpnymous hospital worker who stated that the veteran “went to the E.R. and was denied service … and then he went to his car and shot himself.”

Heart Wrenching Statistics: Red Flags

In one study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, statistics on our veteran suicide crisis are heart wrenching.

The study cites a staggering 22 deaths per day—or one every 65 minutes on average. This study covered veteran’s suicides from 1999 to 2010 and indicated that 69 percent of suicides were among individuals aged 50 years or older.

In other statistics documented by the Team Veteran Foundation website, nearly 137,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2001.

The website details these red flags that demand intervention when someone is contemplating suicide:

  • Talking or discussion about wanting to die
  • Researching ways to kill oneself
  • References to hopelessness or feeling as if life has no purpose
  • Feelings of being trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Feelings of being a burden to others
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Sleep changes; either excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Expressions of rage or a desire to seek revenge
  • Anxiety, agitation or recklessness
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Giving away important personal items or pets

Final Reflections

America’s veteran suicide crisis demands our moral leadership, empathy, and action.

Our response must take place through every segment of society and must include our youth, as they are the future of the nation.

One inspirational example of America’s youth responding to the suicide crisis was from two Traverse City high schools in Grand Traverse County, Michigan.

On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, students from these high schools presented a $13,000.00 check to a veteran suicide prevention group at half-time during a basketball game.

The students raised the money when their schools competed against one another during their Traverse City Patriot Game a few months earlier.

These students, through their character, compassion, and concern for the veterans, give America great hope for our future.

May each of us be inspired by their example and be fully committed to caring for our veterans through prayer, words, and actions.

Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen to Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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